_Daily Record - New Jersey
_By Robert Hicks
ttle Toby Walker has spent a lifetime reinterpreting blues, swing, ragtime and other roots music, as well as developing a unique finger-picking style on guitar and penning his own original songs. The longtime Long Island resident has lived in Denville for the past two years. From that new base, he has easier access to East Coast venues and can more easily travel abroad to perform in Canada and Europe. He will perform tonight at The Minstrel in Morristown.
"I usually don't know what I'll do until a couple of days beforehand, then I think about what I may do and what I may not do," he said. "That usually changes by the second song, so I sort of go by the seat of my pants a lot."
He recently completed a new live CD, "Lost and Found."
"It's all live, but it's taken from the last 20 years of my performing. A number of people had sent me bootleg recordings of me for a long time now. I finally got around to listening to them. I then sat down with some friends and we culled out about 15 songs," he said.
The material derives from radio shows, theater, festival dates and club concert engagements in good studio quality. Many of the songs had disappeared from his repertoire over the years. The new recording then will give listeners an opportunity to revisit some of Walker's older songs and thereby better appreciate the full scope of his music career.
Walker, 53, recently performed at a fairly large festival in British Columbia in Canada. He's also enjoyed a loyal following in the United Kingdom. Like many of the old bluesmen who have served as his mentors over the years, Walker has traveled from his new home base in New Jersey up and down the East Coast and throughout the world.
"I'm exposed to a lot of other, different performers, especially when I'm at festivals, so I can see what they're doing," he said. "I don't change what I'm doing too much, but you can't help but be influenced by other musicians and ideas."
Improvisation plays a big role in his finger-picking style music. Walker's interest in that guitar technique dates back to the early 1970s when he first took an interest in Merle Travis and Jorma Kaukonen's music.
"When I heard them, I realized that there was a lot more going on with the guitar than just strumming it, or playing single notes," he said.
While continuing to play lead guitar in various bands, Walker honed his finger-picking style.
"I morphed the two together and played lead guitar and finger-picking all at the same time."
Traditionally, finger-picking style guitarists will play a melody on top of an alternating bass. Walker departs from that approach by taking the melody and improvising solos over it. Walker likens the end result to the effects in blues, rock and jazz music.