304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
Bluesdoodles rating: 5 Doodle Paws – a stupendous, original, varied and musically imperious album of blues-based songs that have an identity and not a sterile framework for guitar histrionics…just twelve tracks of blues loveliness played superbly.
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. So, let’s celebrate and saddle up as Walter Trout unveils his latest album Ride.
Walter explains the title and ethos: “this album is definitely a musical ride and I certainly tried to cover a lot of ground. But, really, life is kind of a ride too, isn’t it? And I want to live mine to the fullest.”
There are many guitarists out there who plug a Fender Stratocaster into their chosen amplification and spend a lifetime failing to even approach the tone Walter wrings out of his Strat through a Mesa Boogie amp…I know, I have a Strat played through a Fender amp and I am still at best a rank amateur compared to the fluidity, emotion and purity Mr Trout achieves so effortlessly. (In saying that, I fail equally spectacularly with my Musicman!)
That tone, that feel is what marks Walter above so many, particularly in the blues world and this enviable ability is proven again from the first couple of bars on the delicious blues of opening track, Ghosts. A gritty blues riff and a pulsating harp may sound cliched, but not in this man’s hands…first thing to note is the production clarity and that it’s essential to listen to this on ‘proper’ equipment as the stunning bass, keys and guitar layers will be missed. Vocally, Walter is on top form and his guitar playing remains masterful…the solo is so damn clever and the tribal coda captivates.
The title track, Ride, is heralded by the harp and then the guitar and keys lift the tempo as the story recounts memories of a train passing his childhood home…it has a jaunty CCR feel but the guitar solos make it all pure, quality Trout. Follow You Back Home brings us a slower, near lament in a tale of the anguish of separation…string layers and piano carry the emotion behind the verses and chorus until Walter delivers the first crafted and delicate solo that reflects the heartache of the lyrics, the second somehow conveys hope in sadness…not many guitarists can speak this fluently through six bits of wire. So Many Sad Goodbyes is pure, classy mid-tempo blues…world-weary lyrics (“redemption is obsolete”) over a kind of Free structure, a delightful, imaginative guitar solo of course. High Is Low stays nicely blue and mid-tempo with neat guitar and harp work bringing tradition bang up to date…if you see what I mean. They both contribute meaningful, measured and excellent solos too.
Waiting For The Dawn is a guitarist’s delight from first note to last as this slow blues demonstrates how to write and play with feeling, meaning and method…after each line, the guitar tells it again in runs, bends and soloing that cries and cries out to be heard. Better Days Ahead keeps the standard high with the fiery blues of vocal and guitar interplay…the Purplish background adds to the weighty atmosphere and the solo is simply phenomenal. Fertile Soil proves the blues can share its roots with country and combine with Souther rock successfully as Walter goes all melodic and harmonies over the genre-blending backing but, nicely leaving room, for a great solo before the piano, organ, acoustic and harp bridge goes a bit Eagley (and that isn’t Peacemaker’s pet eagle!)
I Worry Too Much is blues rock with a chunk of funk scoring the backing…another blend that works in this master’s hands and heralds another stunning solo that has range and feel most guitarists would donate a significant body part for. Leave It All Behind continues to mix it up as the genius intro leads to a brass-backed ball…this blues/swing/dance number also has a brilliant electric piano solo as well as a fascinating one from Walter. Hey Mama brings more weighty, quality blues that carries the burden of the lyrics beautifully if it does hark back (if I’m reading the words right) to an unsettling time in Walter’s past…the solo calls out with the same emotions and is cleverly crafted.
The final track, Destiny, is a true story too and is a love story set to a slow-burning blues with Hendrix-y touches but still all Trout and a solo that ranges across the strings and neck without flash, just passion and that inherent feel he brings to every note.
Once again, Walter Trout has put together an original, varied and musically imperious album of blues-based songs that have an identity and not a sterile framework for guitar histrionics…just twelve tracks of blues loveliness played superbly.
Follow You Back Home
So Many Sad Goodbyes
High Is Low
Waiting For The Dawn
Better Days Ahead
I Worry Too Much
Leave It All Behind
Walter Trout: guitar, vocals
Michael Leasure: drums
Johnny Griparic: bass
Teddy ‘Zig Zag’ Andreadis: keyboards, harmonica
Ride is released on 19 August via Provogue/Mascot Label Group.
(iTunes kept it blue with the 1992, star studded LA Blues Authority album (the first of a few excellent volumes) The song this time is the JJ Cale classic, Same Old Blues but heavy and very blues performed by the remarkable team work of Davey Pattison, Brad Gillis, Phil Soussan and Fred Coury…simply brilliant.)