Walter Trout stunning Guitar and a Parka Plays It Live
The Tramshed was filling fast as Jared James Nichols took to the stage. What a rip-roaring dynamic set, as the saying goes what a difference a year makes. We first heard Jared live opening for Glenn Hughes his guitar playing then was superb but at times the timing was a little manic and the sound raw. Tonight we are hearing what a torch bearer for blues-rock this young guitarist from Wisconsin is carrying it high and bright. He has such control his mastery of the guitar is a mix of wild and control. Jared is full of theatrical interest with a flick of his blonde mane he comes to the front of the stage showing finger dexterity that makes sense of the cascade of notes he is playing. Denis Holm used the cowbell judiciously along with drum that growled, whilst the bass lines from Erik Sandin fitted the groove deepening the chords that allowing Jared to fly. The set was fast, entertaining warming the venue with a mix of numbers of his own including Crazy from Old Glory & Wild Revival and closing with a stupendous Mountain of a cover of Mississippi Queen which is rapidly becoming a signature number. Jared and his band are ones to watch as they shine the sparkling blues torch high.
A short break with the excitement mounting as everyone shared memories of previous Walter Trout gigs. There was a collective delight that Walter Trout was back playing live music and in Wales tonight. The applause and cheers as Walter stepped on stage was warm, heartfelt we were welcoming a guitarist we love to hear playing, a friend and well-loved member of the blues fraternity. The set was full of blues with lengthy numbers and at the heart of the set were several tracks from Battle Scars. The songs were long, guitar breaks intense what you know he delivers blues that is full of interest strong lyrics and the journey he takes us on with his magic treatment of the Fenders six-strings.
Walter is at home on the stage the band that surrounds the guitar gives the sound depth and tonal interest, with Sammy Avila on Keys and the rhythm section consisting of bassist Johnny Griparic and drummer Micheal Leasure this is a band that loves playing the music that sets them on fire. The title may have been Out Of Control, but Walter was in total control, delighted to be on a stage in Wales, the atmosphere in the Tramshed was full of love there is no doubt the Welsh crowd and those that traveled far and wide were relishing every note he played. We were treated to a masterclass of controlled intricate blues/rock guitar with a wonderful tribute to B B King with Say Good Bye To The Blues. You almost forgot about the great supporting musicians that make up his band he is the centre of everyone’s attention he is the Trout Lord of the stage yet it is their skills that ensure Walter can strut his stuff with ease and confidence.
The audience wanted to hear Walter play tracks from Battle Scars, we wanted to share the painful journey of the Liver Transplant as told through his music and celebrate the power and determination of Walter. We were rewarded with stories of his journey the resulting Battle Scars album. The songs are dark, graphic, dirty blues on an album where the tracks when played live take them to another level. The album is stunning and emotional live it is a supernova of emotional playing, that at its heart is a truth full of pain and love the essence of the blues.
There was a lot of emotion on the stage as he played Almost Gone the opening track of the album. This is blues that address the pain of reaching the lowest ebb. This is explored in Please Take Me Home, a pleading reprise he asked his wife Marie. Her strength gave him the energy to stay and wait for a replacement liver. Thank you Marie, for your strength and allowing us to share moments with Walter once again on stage playing Blues full of the agony, ecstasy and the enduring power of love. Loneliness and isolation of lying in a hospital bed in the dark hours of the night as the lyrics of Haunted By The Night unfolds.
Tonight was not about tears, it was a celebration and Walter was joined on stage by Andrew Elt, a fantastic guitarist and vocalist and the acoustic worked so well as the shadow to Walter’s electric guitar. Andrews singing on Down Down Down was rocking good and Walter’s re-wording to Freezing My Arse was a reference to the fact he was feeling cold on stage in fact, Andrew fetched him a Parka a first for Walter playing guitar in a Parka. With warm words about the young opening guitarist, Jared was invited to join Walter on stage for a barnstorming rendition of Working Overtime quite a magical moment.
Before, he left the stage Walter made a heartfelt statement about organ transplants. Thanking the unknown donor that gave him the gift of life. Praising Wales as a country who along with Spain the only two countries in the World for having the right approach having to opt out rather than opting into organ donation. The cheers were loud and another round of applause what a night of live, emotional charged Blues-rock. Ending with Walter showing respect to his many fans and came out to chat with everyone, giving time and signing many T-shirts and albums with a gracious smile. Thank you, Walter hope you are back in Wales playing the blues we want to hear very soon.
In Conversation with Walter Trout: Life Blues Stratocasters
Bluesdoodles was delighted when Walter Trout agreed to talk to us. As most of you will be only too aware in 2013 Walter was diagnosed with life-threatening liver failure and hepatitis C, followed by months in hospital, resulting in a successful liver transplant in 2014. Now he is back playing, and the first studio album since his recovery was the critically acclaimed Battle Scars and recently released Alive in Amsterdam. There was plenty to talk about.
BD: Good evening Walter thanks for taking the time out from your busy schedule to speak to Bluesdoodles this evening
WT: Delighted that Skype worked we can hear and see each other, even Othello joined in the fun with a wag of his tail and treats.
BD: Battle Scars an amazing album and unsurprisingly really emotionally charged, do you feel it as a concept album for the Blues?
I don’t know if it was the first concept album for the Blues but I think in some ways it was probably the first concept album for me. Go The Distance, when I did Go The Distance I had just turned 50 years old I wanted to do an album sort of what I felt on turning fifty. Which, now in hindsight seems to me I was a very young man at the time but I felt ancient you know. I tried to sort of do it but didn’t really work out to be as much a concept album as I had hoped it would be. I think this one [Battle Scars] certainly was especially because I told this story before, but will tell you here. I wanted to do a new album after coming through hell. I really wanted to write about, and had this new view of life, and had these new understandings about things, new feeling for being alive a new perspective on things. Everything had changed in my mind I saw the world differently I wanted to write about that but everything was coming out clichéd like for example, everything was ‘I see the sunshine’, ‘don’t the flowers smell wonderful’ it has all been done right. I went to my wife and I said I am really frustrated I have all this music. But every time try to put words in there it just comes out as clichéd bullshit, it would have worked great for who I don’t know err Olivia Newton John or something. She sat down and she said to me look here is what you have to do it might be painful for you sit down and put yourself back in that bed. I laid on my back for seven months that is a long-haul. She said put yourself back there think about it and when you get back how it felt, what you thought ,what you experienced write about that. Once she gave me that idea, she went out for the day and I wrote six songs I wrote more than half that record in on afternoon. By two days later I had it finished, it literally took me three days even two days so it was of course a concept album because I was really focusing on one thing. I would think about different aspects of it. Each song would be about a different part of that experience. So yea, it definitely came out as a concept album it kinda blew my mind really when two days later I had all these songs I was like wow this is like (Walter chuckles) almost like sitting on a couch and talking to a shrink talking to a therapist. Instead I did it with music. I really had something to say on this sometimes doesn’t always happen that way it can take a week to write a song this one was different I knew what I wanted to say.
BD: I am sure everyone is fascinated that you had to re-learn the guitar. Do you feel your approach/style has changed?
WT: I think I am a better player now. Let me tell you a story you know Bob Harris, his book Whispering Years, he told me that I am best guitarist in the world. I had lunch with him and he gave me the book back then, I said there are so many guys who can blaze, shred thank you for this. He said, “Do you know why I wrote this about you?” I said “No.” He said to me “it is how much you put into it” that was the quote. I think since I have come back from the brink and started out I can put even more into it. It means even more to me than it ever did. I think can put more feeling into every note. I can still play a lot of notes. Sometimes I can go way over the top and people say he is going over the top. But believe me I mean every single note. It was still in my head but I had no muscles. I had lost more than half of my body when I got sick I weighed 230lbs at the height of my illness I weighed little over 100 pounds so it was all my muscle had gone. When I first picked up the guitar I did not have the strength to push the string down to the fret I couldn’t do it. So I had to develop the muscle back, I also had to re-train my muscles to listen to what my brain, what signal my brain was sending. I knew how to play the chords just not capable of doing it. I basically spent a year with weights working with weights with little weights to develop my fore-arms. Spent 4-5 hours per day acoustic guitar they are a little more difficult they require, a little more strength. I came home in September, first time tried to play guitar in public was New Year’s Eve. I played two songs with my sons, every New Year’s Eve we set up a band in my front yard and on the stroke of midnight we play to my neighbour’s. We have done this for 13 years, I played two songs with my boys “laughing” Born To Be Wild and Fortunate Son by Creedance. After that I couldn’t play anymore, but I could actually play and it was joyous, then I did not really play a show in public until 15th June at Royal Albert Hall. BD: So it was a long six-months between sitting on front step and getting up onto a stage. WT: That was a lot of work still not up to full speed on New Years Eve. BD: Was it scary getting back on stage again? WT: It was a little scary but it was also, can’t say I was nervous I was apprehensive. I had come to terms with the thought of this maybe will go out there and have dizzy spell fall over. Maybe my hands will cramp up like they had been doing. Maybe I will open my mouth and nothing will come out. If that happens, it happens all I can do is go out there and give it my best attempt I have to say there was an incredible band of English musicians backing me up they were all just awesome. When I counted to four the band came in I thought to myself I’m home I’ve done this 10,000 times, this feels really good. Just a wonderful, wonderful time playing that show. BD: And you are back entertaining us once againWT: Yea yes we are.
BD: Which we see in your latest album Alive in Amsterdam your current album. It is full of emotion and the joy and power of being back on stage. Do you feel re-charged and motivated after the liver transplant?
WT: Being able to do that, it was taken from me all that time I laid in that bed sometimes late at night I would go on my cell-phone and watch a video of myself and I would go who is that guy? I couldn’t do that now if I tried. I can’t relate to that person. Then after I got it back, it means more than it ever did it is joyous to do that. Playing guitar and listening to what is coming out and I’m saying goddam this is fun. Like when I was fifteen I would play guitar with my friends it was not about going to be a star or getting record deal just playing in garage just experiencing the most joy in your life that you can experience being able to make sound most beautiful thing now to get up there. I don’t take one of those million notes I play for granted.
BD: Tell us about your guitars, and have you a favoured one?
WT: I am really Fender Strat guy. The first really good guitar that I owned, I had a bunch of kinda like cheap electric guitars when a teenager. I literally quit school and got a job so that I could go and buy a Les Paul. I started with a Les Paul and then from that I went to Gibson 335 because I dropped the Les Paul the neck broke in half it was horrible, I was 17, that happened to me and I was destroyed. Then I got a 335 I really loved Gibsons. Then one day I was at a party, which was a jam session with a bunch of musicians in Philadelphia a guy said try my Stratocaster he handed me a Stratocaster and I felt like I had found my lifelong partner. Ever since then it has been a Stratocaster and you know have that old one that has is on the cover of all my records the one that when I bought was white now turned yellow and not much finish left on it I toured with that thing for 34 years. That guitar is an entity and has my spirit in it. I have retired it from road for two reasons. One, I was too worried about it getting stolen or something happening to it. Number two, it is very, very heavy some years ago I had problems with my shoulders and lost use of left arm and had to go and get all this physical therapy. I couldn’t play and had to start all over again back then also. Literally had to start all over again twice. It is just too heavy for me, I can play when in the studio when sitting down it is a Stock Strat. Now the guitar I am using on this record and tour with and unlike certain young guitar players well known guitar players who part of their hype use fifteen guitars on one song. I am one guitar one woman man here. I have this guitar that, back when shoulder went out a guitar builder out in California, Scott Lentz he built me an incredibly light Stratocaster, that weights almost nothing, he said this will save your shoulder. I didn’t really care for the neck so went to one of my other Strats that I have, I have a bunch of them, I only use one but I have other ones just to have them around. Took neck of one of those and put on the body he built for me. Then, Seymour Duncan, world’s foremost maker of guitar pick-ups. Seymour is a friend of mine we both come up playing in club circuit in New Jersey and Philadelphia he did the same thing, we’re the same age we came up through the years in the same place. He said to me, “I hear you’re retiring your old guitar”. I said yea, I can’t use it anymore, it killed my shoulder and also if someone stole it I’d have to like jump of a bridge or something” Seymour said, I’ll build you pick-ups and will sound just like it. He built me a couple of sets of pick-ups that is what is in there. If I set up my stage rig in the garage and if I go from the old to the new guitar it is very hard to tell the difference, he did an incredible job. That is my road guitar no, it is really a mutt! A dog of five different species. Neck off and old one, a body build for me and Seymour’s made the pickups. It definitely plays wonderfully and sounds great It’s become my main road guitar. That is the one on the live album.
BD: Going to take you back now, what were your musical influences growing up in New Jersey
WT: My parents were music aficionados was great to have, they didn’t play they just loved music. For instance my Dad was into Jazz and big bands. There used be a radio show in Ocean City, New Jersey where I grew up that played Big Band music and every week they would have a contest of trivia about big band musicians. He won it so many times that they disqualified him from calling in. He knew everything and all he did was listen to Duke Ellington, Ben Goodman, Glenn Miller he just loved it. He was also very open to all music. I remember him telling me to check out this guy from Ashbury Park, Bruce Springsteen and I said I knew him from when he was in competing club bands. Well he just made a record and it’s really good. My Mum was an incredible aficionado of music my big memories of her was in the other room I heard one of Ray Charles old blues albums before he had hits when he was doing R n’B on Atlantic. He was playing some Slow Blues song and my Mom was crying to the song. When they realized I really dug music they started taking me out my Dad would take me to black jazz cubs. They took me to see Ella Fitzgerald, Mum took me to see James Brown, Righteous Brothers, Lou Rawls Dad took me to see Clive McPhatter, Chuck Berry it was just really awesome
BD: If you were putting together the band of your dreams/perfect with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing?
WT: I would have the Guys I play with right now in m y band that’s the best band I’ve ever had. Part of having a band is the chemistry between the players the communication between the players as evidenced by The Beatles for me the greatest band of all time. If you take them separately they are what they are. Put those four together it’s an unbelievable divine intervention type of thing it’s about the chemistry. Right now I think I have the best blues rock band in the universe as evidenced by the new live album.
The back story of Walter Trout’s recent clash with death where he rose victorious has been well documented and the joy of hearing his studio album Battle Scars was for his legion of fans affirmation the blues Phoenix had truly risen from the ashes of despair. Now, back playing live we have the sound of Walter back on stage Alive in Amsterdam playing hot blues with verve, passion and poise.
Marie’s moving introduction and rapturous ovation from the audience leaves Walter speechless, but his guitar and vocals do all the talking we want to hear. Opening with Play The Guitar, and Walter certainly does that, the whole instrument bends to his deft and assured touch. This is Walter back at the top of his game after the traumas he has been through there is an added energy delight in playing with a raw untamed energy of finding music again. Luther Allison cover, I’m Back says it all as the blues flow with high-octane emotion he is stated “I am back ready for anything and playing better than ever”. His tribute to BB King Say Goodbye To The Blues, was full of every shade of blue that can be pulled from the guitar with the organ in the background adding another later of textural interest shaping the chords.
In the centre of the live show are six poignant tracks from his critically acclaimed album Battle Scars opening with Almost Gone and closing with Fly Away. Walter is definitely not gone from stage and studio his blues are not going to Fly Away anytime soon. Walter though is playing the music the fans have always loved with son Jon joining him on Rock Me Baby as Father and Son jam this is live music capturing the moment. The audience is loud, and happy when a guy shouts out Marie’s Mood, the set list changes as Walter laughs and plays it for the audience. This is what makes live music special, yes captured here for posterity but the special memories belong to the audience; in Amsterdam on the 28th November 2015 at the opulent Royal Theatre Carré
His band are outstanding. The centre of attention is on Walter, the emotions are all pulled from his amazing journey overcoming liver failure and a transplant. It is the band that gives him the space to play Michael Leasure’s drumming has the beat measured at times intense, then restrained joined by bassist Johnny Griparic. The Rhythm section keeps the tempo tight as Walter flies with licks and riffs bouncing off his stinging guitar. Into the mix and the tonal complexities of the keys from Sammy Avila you have a quartet of Blue that delivers the Blues with deep emotions.
Walter Trout Alive In Amsterdam playing Hot Blues, is a bold statement of resurrection. Walter is back the pain and fear diminished, not forgotten and re-shaping his blues with another layer of wisdom and pebbles from the road of life and the journey of healing. The power of love, support and the blues runs deep through every emotionally wrought track. Played in Amsterdam to fans who lived every moment of the painful and difficult road to health, documented by Marie who took time out to keep the fans informed of every high and low. He is back full of potency, playing his blues, nothing laid back and taking it easy for Walter he is on fire Alive in Amsterdam.
Bluesdoodles gives this CD NINE doodle paws out of TEN ….
Walter Trout becomes a Patron of the British Liver Trust
He has been given the gift of life and now he wants to help others “I’m only still here because someone donated their liver” Walter Trout
You can find out more info on the British Liver Trust, become a doner and get a free download of the song Move On HERE
Walter received a liver transplant after nearly facing death in 2014. He now feels like a new man and has immense gratitude for his supporters, his donor and the medical community who gave him a second chance at life. Recognizing that liver disease is a ‘silent killer’ and many people are unaware of it until it is too late, he has become a Patron of the Trust because he wants to help raise awareness, much needed funding and encourage everyone to ensure that their loved ones know their wishes regarding becoming a donor. Walter is supporting the Trust in his upcoming November UK tour.
His new album Battle Scars, released on Provogue/Mascot Label Group chronicles his battle with liver failure. Walter found out that he had liver disease in 2013. His health deteriorated and he almost died. He spent a month in intensive care and then a further five months on a liver ward first waiting for a transplant and then recovering after surgery. His fans – many of them from England – used the internet to support Walter and help him raise $250,000 needed to help towards his medical bills for his liver transplant in 2014.
Liver disease is currently the third commonest cause of premature death in the UK – more than 12 million of us are at risk of liver disease yet we have very few resources compared with other conditions. With more funding into better research and care and by encouraging many more people to become a donor we can save more people’s lives. Without the funding that supports research and new developments in care and without people agreeing to donate their organs, Walter would not be alive today. He now feels he wants to give something back and raise awareness for the condition.
“I am delighted that Walter Trout has agreed to support the British Liver Trust and become our Patron.” Said Andrew Langford, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust. “As Walter knows it is a silent killer and by the time that you have the symptoms it can often be too late. I would urge everyone to take the British Liver Trust’s free online Love Your Liver health screener on our website to see if you are at risk. Please also make sure that your loved ones know your wishes regarding organ donation and consider joining Walter in supporting us.”
Talking about his involvement with the trust, Walter opens up; “Liver disease almost cost me my life. The disease progressively drained me of my life force until I was on the verge of death. A miraculous liver transplant allowed me to survive and thrive once again. I owe my life to the research and development in the medical field around treatment of liver diseases. I am happy to work with the British Liver Trust to promote awareness about the silent killer among us. I am thrilled because new treatments are emerging at the moment, and to help raise awareness around this, and to empower people to seek treatment, is something I feel privileged to do.”
At the end of each of each show on the tour, there will be leaflets at the merchandise booth with more information, where Walter will also be signing records.
Walter Trout’s, Battle Scars is an album that narrates a journey few have been on and even less people have reached the other side, no wonder the album is dark, heartfelt and uplifting it is stunning in every dimension. The album opens with a slow darkly intense number Almost Gone. The swampy music is laden with impending doom, is reflective with lyrics redolent with emotion and the melody guitar driven that has the urgency running deep with impending doom. The guitar gains vigour and the drum beats out the rhythm on Omaha as Walter sings “Give me your hand…” the story unfolds and the listener is immersed in the story – if this was a book it would be a gripping page turner, the advantage of a music led narrative you are slowed down by the pace of the beat and the length of each track be patient enjoy the blues and wait for the next chapter. Half way through and a slow urban driven blues number that is drenched in fear and sorrow Take Me Home is a heart wrenching blues ballad that is perfectly formed. The beat picks up as we are held way through with a new urgency a feeling of positivity is creeping in Playin’ Hideway and again it is the lyrics and guitar that dominates and works so well. Every track has an emotional driver that the guitar takes a slower swampy vibe, Haunted by the Night you feel in a dark place as the Devil of blues music is interspersed through the lyrics as Walter sings “I am too tired to fight, darkness all round me…” and then the electric energy of Fly Away with some scorching guitar licks. A switch to acoustic guitar and a number sung directly to you and Walter’s voice is full of power and gratitude Gonna Live Again and the story is almost told. Closing the album with his voice on Sammy Sammy for a few seconds Walter Trout is back producing wonderful music.
Walter Trout’s guitar playing is sublime the lyrics drenched in personal experience giving them power through authenticity. This is an album that captures, telling a story in best blues tradition and the glimmer of hope grows as Battle Scars progress. Compelling listening that will stand the test of time reflecting the battle won as Walter didn’t die last year and Battle Scars is a testimony of the journey Walter, Marie and his family have been on; changing them forever.
Bluesdoodles gives this CD TEN doodle paws out of TEN ….
1. Almost Gone
2. Omaha Prelude
4. Tomorrow Seems Far Away
5. Please Take Me Home
6. Playin’ Hideaway
7. Haunted By The Night
8. Fly Away
9. Move On
10. My Ship Came In
11. Cold, Cold Ground
12. Gonna Live Again
13. Sammy, Sammy
Walter is touring the U.K. during November UK Dates
Listen – Pre Order – Book Tickets as simple as 1-2-3!
BATTLE SCARS TRACK LIST
Tomorrow Seems So Far Away
Please Take Me Home
Haunted By The Night
My Ship Came In
Cold, Cold Ground
Gonna Live Again
The energy that zings off the guitar is spellbinding, joyful, the vocal power is compelling, Battle Scars dozen original songs that narrate his hard-won, life-or-death struggle waiting for, and ultimately receiving, a life-saving liver transplant.
“I’m thrilled about this album, about my life and about my music” says Trout, who returned to the stage in June at the prestigious Lead Belly Festival in London’s Royal Albert Hall, where he received 3 standing ovations. “I feel that I’m reborn as a songwriter, a singer, a guitarist and a human being. I have a new chance at being the best musician and the best man that I can be. And I’m incredibly happy and grateful.”
Contrast that to early 2014, when Trout was lying in a hospital bed without the strength to move or speak, unable to recognize his own children, as he observed his body waste away. He had lost 13 pints of blood and was in a coma for three days. But on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014, Trout underwent liver transplant surgery and the slow process of healing began. “At first I wasn’t strong enough to play a single note on the guitar, but as I regained my strength, the music came back to me. Now when I pick up the guitar, it is liberating, joyful, and limitless. I feel like I’m 17 again.”
One of the reasons Walter is still here and is now fit and healthy is through the overwhelming generosity of his fans and supporters which included a fan-organised YouCaring campaign which was set up by Kirby Bryant, the wife of British blues guitarist and Trout protégée Danny Bryant and this alongside various concert tributes raised $245,000 towards his healthcare. “I don’t take this lightly,” Trout declares. “Marie says that all of the people who donated to our fundraiser for my medical expenses” — which generated more than $245,000 – “bought stock in me and my liver. When I play for them now, I have a responsibility to give back and offer the very best that I have.”
Just prior to his illness, Provogue records was poised for a major “Year of the Trout” marketing campaign and worldwide tour celebrating his 25 years as a solo artist. The label released Trout’s then newly recorded album, ‘When the Blues Came Calling’, and reissued his catalog on 180-gram vinyl. Additionally, Provogue published his autobiography penned with British music journalist, Henry Yates: Rescued From Reality: The Life and Times of Walter Trout.
“Unfortunately, that tour didn’t happen,” Trout says. “Instead I had to cancel an entire year of touring. That’s what the song on Battle Scars, ‘My Ship Came In’ is about: My ship came in and I missed it! I’d waited all my life for a record label to get behind me to that extent, and then that plan fell apart.” But he is back touring and a new album Battle Scar available to pre-order HERE
Trout is now moving triumphantly forward in his 50th year as a guitarist. He is in the midst of a global tour with his band: keyboardist Sammy Avila, drummer Michael Leasure, and new bassist Johnny Griparic, who joined in time to record Battle Scars in Los Angeles’ Kingsize Soundlabs with Trout’s longtime producer Eric Corne.