When a blues guitarist has a lineage that includes being in the backing band for John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton (amongst others) and a member of the illustrious Canned Heat and the Bluesbreakers before forming his own band in 1989, then you know you are in for a treat. Or, I should say, another treat as, all in all, I reckon he’s appeared on well over thirty albums…which is no mean feat. Then to undergo a life-saving liver transplant, recover, write an album recounting those tribulations and then go on to continue his successful career is the mark of a special personality. Celebrate therefore as Walter Trout unveils his latest album Ordinary Madness. Although conceived and recorded before the current pandemic, there is a startling relevance in some of the lyrics: Walter explains: “There’s a lot of extraordinary madness going on right now, this album started because I was dealing with the flaws and weakness inside me. But it ended up being about everyone.” So buckle in for an emotional ride backed by superb musicianship on every track.
It all starts, briefly, with some electronic noodling courtesy of Walter’s son before the slow blues tempo cuts in, and Walter’s voice and guitar build the tension on a slow-burning blues of quality…and a solo that is sublime: bends, volume play, and above all an inherent sense of how many notes are needed throughout its glorious length. Wanna Dance ups the pace a bit and we get blues-rock perfection with a great simple and effective riff with more carefully phrased vocal melodies and another stunning, measured, and fitting solo. My Foolish Pride is a remarkable, melodic ballad with hints of gospel and, good as this is, he only goes on and tops it with the best ballad of the year with the majestic Heartlands…needless to say the guitar playing on both is a revelation as his sensitivity and emotion pour out of the fretboard.
All Out Of Tears sees Walter employ the slow ticking blues motif and, again for me, it is the scorching solo that means that (on my vinyl copy it will soon be worn through the so-called heavyweight they use these days). Final Curtain Call moves us back to his Mayall days with some good old rock, complete with some tasty harp adding colour to his glorious guitar phrasing. Heaven In Your Eyes is, as the title suggests, a love song with yet more wonderful guitar with the notes wringing out as much love, devotion and emotion as the lyrics with clever piano, bass, and drums adding admirably to the atmosphere. The Sun Is Going Down is a bit of an enigma…I hear the Beatles in their Eastern days and references to Robert Johnson in both the lyrics and, to a degree, the melody, but with bluesy harp and, at unexpected tempo change, the build to the second majestic solo of the song. Make It Right puts some funk into the bluesy, driving riff. Oh, and guess what? Another fabulous solo with the added bonus of some superb volume play included. Up Above My Sky starts a little Floydian but soon develops into true blues…listen to the subtle but brilliant bass line too. The solo? It is one of Walter’s best on the album and that is saying something!
The closing track, OK Boomer is blues rock and roll complete with the once traditional count in as Walter tells his story and admits that his 70 years do take a toll… “I still love my rock a roll, the Beatles and the Stones, but I can’t bend no more, you know it hurts me in my bones, I like my music loud, I jam electric and I’m proud, I’m a boomer and I’m OK.” Well I may be a decade behind you Walter but I feel it too but, unlike you the only jam I get these days is strawberry! So, in summary (if you haven’t guessed yet), here is an album chock full of superb playing by the whole band and Mr. Trout surpasses himself with searing solo after solo that makes this an essential buy…so buy it.
Bluesdoodles rating: Stupendous if you like blues guitar impeccably written and played than you need this album.
My Foolish Pride
All Out Of Tears
Final Curtain Call
Heaven In Your Eyes
The Sun Is Going Down
Make It Right
Up Above My Sky
Musicians joining Walter Trout
Michael Leasure (drums)
Johnny Griparic (bass)
Teddy ‘Zig Zag’ Andreadis (keys)
Guests: Jon Trout, Skip Edwards, Drake ‘Munkihaid’ Shining and Anthony Grisham
Produced by Eric Corne at Robby Krieger’s studio
(The iTunes run on track was inevitably more Walter..so I moved on to some early 70’s heavy rock and the underrated post-Purple project of Nick Simper and treated myself to some Warhorse.)