Walter Jr. - Between the Bible and the Blues

Acclaimed guitarist and songwriter Walter Jr. is an enigma.

He’s as comfortable jamming in a Southwest Louisiana honky-tonk as he is serving up his signature style of gospel in a bayou-country church. He blurs the line between secular and sacred — prompting listeners to contemplate that perhaps these traditional distinctions don’t exist.

An honorary member of The Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame, the veteran performer has been entertaining and spreading the good word with soulful flair for more than four decades. When it comes to Louisiana spirit and music, Walter Jr. is right at home.

Born and baptized in Mermentau, a small village in the heart of Louisiana Cajun country, Walter Jr. grew up hearing traditional Cajun music at family gatherings. As he got older, his musical tastes expanded to include some of the region’s top blues artists, including Louisiana natives Bobby Charles, Slim Harpo and Clarence “Gatemouth" Brown.

In addition to his popular blues gigs, he also uses his music to help spread a spiritual message. A Certified Lay Minister in the United Methodist Church with a Master's degree from the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans, the musician presents original sacred concerts — which have been described as “relevant, reverent and scripturally grounded” with heartfelt passion and compassionate fellowship.

Walter Jr.’s relaxed style has been central to his work as music minister, worship leader, spiritual director, and retreat/seminar/conference leader. He also facilitates labyrinth walks and contemplative prayer sessions.

Walter Jr., who has lived in Lafayette, Louisiana, since the 1960s, credits a diverse mix of musicians as his inspiration. New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison as well as T-Bone Walker, Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery all influenced his songwriting, singing and guitar work. But the jazzy bluesman has a signature sound that manages to be all his own while still reflecting the rich musical heritage of his Cajun-country roots.

"The Lafayette native brews up a compelling gumbo of swamp pop and roadhouse blues — quintessential sounds from the swamps of Southern Louisiana," wrote Jazz Times journalist and preeminent American music author, Bill Milkowski.

In the secular realm, he has performed and recorded with dignitaries Johnny Sandlin, Bonnie Bramlett, Bekka Bramlett, Sonny Landreth, Oteil Burbridge, Bobby Charles, Gatemouth Brown, Randall Bramblett, The Muscle Shoals Horns, Roger Hawkins, David Hood, Bill Stewart, Paul Hornsby and many others. In the sacred realm, he has concelebrated with such luminaries as Fr. Richard Rohr, Fr. Thomas Keating, Carey Landry, Lyn Holley Doucet and Rev. Ed Boyd within both small inner circles and large symposiums.

“Water Jr.’s blend of soul, funk, R&B and everything-in-between never wanders far from home,” music journalist John Heidt wrote in a 2006 article in “Vintage Guitar” magazine. “It’s not hard to tell from his accent, his music and his laid-back style that he’s home in Louisiana.”

For the past eighteen years old friends and new friends still gather every Friday night to hear this rare voice in the Jazz Room at Brian Blanchard’s iMonelli’s Restaurant in Lafayette. A national ambassador for Louisiana music, Walter Jr. frequently plays around the country and has been a staple at the annual Mystick Krewe of Louisianians Mardi Gras ball in Washington, D.C.

Whether you catch this acclaimed artist in a secular/sacred venue or a sacred/secular venue, all agree that the experience is not to be forgotten.

“His guitar playing is chock full of warm jazz tones—soft delicate chords that often break into fluid solos. His wispy, expressive vocal delivery is equally creative…the combination feels metaphysical — a stereo marvel circling the senses. Walter Jr. is a master of delivering messages masked in melody. - Dan Willging, Offbeat Magazine (New Orleans)​

Walter Jr.’s vast musical experience ranges from hot blues to cool meditations, blended with elements of jazz, folk and rock. The artist’s prolific career is evidenced in his 11 albums — “Louisiana Soul,” “Back on the Bayou Road,” “A Long Way from Lafayette,” “Learning to Love,” “The River Club,” “Standing on the Word,” “The Sacraments” — a seven-CD set, “Seasons of Centering” — a four CD set, “Standing on the Word,” “Our New Awakening,” and “Spirit a-Moves.”​

Walter Jr.’s spiritual influences have broadened over the years. Beyond Biblical scripture, many others including John Wesley, Thomas Merton, Teilhard de Chardin, Richard Rohr, Thomas Keating, Henri Nouwen, Andrei Tarkovsky, John Coltrane, Karl Rahner, Albert Outler and Vatican II — have inspired the artist.​