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Issue 1081

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Review

Walter Trout: The Blues Came Callin̢۪ (Provogue)

Walter Trout CD cover pic

10

6.1

Rate this Album

UK release date 02.06.2014

I said when I reviewed his last album, the tribute to Luther Allison, it was probably the best thing he̢۪d done thus far. Well, he̢۪s gone and done it again with his latest - a triumph - the most personal set of songs he has ever penned.

This is not just any old release. No. When this album hits the stores on 2nd June, instead of celebrating his 25th year as a solo artist by strapping that guitar to his chest and doing his thing, Walter may well have had a life saving liver transplant by then. The man has been very, very poorly indeed. Medics in the US told him if he did not get a new liver within 90 days he would die. OMG.

Fighter Walter is still with us and was well enough to go home and await the transplant. But gigs and work will have to wait until well after the op and he is fully fit again. The British, European and US blues communities have rallied round and raised thousands of dollars to help pay for the op and associated health care costs. It has been heart-warming to see and note how loved he is.

Over to Walter̢۪s wife Marie: "For five years, Walter, Provogue Records, and I have worked towards making Walter̢۪s 25th year as a solo artist a special celebratory event. But the festivities will have to wait! Walter is urgently in need of a liver transplant. It has been heart-breaking for me to watch Walter struggle through these past many months, as we tried various treatment options provided by Walter̢۪s doctors and liver specialists.

"One by one the treatments failed. Yet through it all, Walter̢۪s courage and determination continually amazed me. Even as he became a shadow of his former self, after losing 100 pounds and much of his strength, he continued touring, writing, playing, singing, and recording. Music and playing for people offered Walter what it always has: It is therapy and a life-line for him when the blues comes callin̢۪. Thus the theme of this album is coloured by his confrontation with mortality combined with a deep, all-abiding desire to persevere, and a good dose of typical Walter̢۪esque life-affirming defiance!"

Provogue records boss Ed van Zijl: "When Walter re-joined Provogue in 2008 we talked about a plan leading up to the 25th anniversary of his career as a solo artist which is this year, 2014. Besides a brand new album we also made a book and a documentary.

"Not only to make people aware of the 25th anniversary but also to have people realize just how good and how important an artist Walter is for the blues rock genre worldwide. A phenomenal guitar player and an even greater person. Always speaking from the heart and always in for a good joke.

"The touring set up for 2014 was fantastic with shows at the prestigious North Sea Jazz festival and the Carre theatre in Amsterdam amongst many other great ones. Instead of being out there on the road giving his usual all to his many fans night after night, Walter is fighting for his life and there is nothing to celebrate at this moment. This is so very, very sad and we all are praying for Walter to come out on top. The album will be released June 2nd as planned as Walter definitely wants this one to be heard. In the meantime our hearts are with Walter and his family."

2014 marks the year Walter Trout looks back at an almost 50-year commitment to playing and singing the blues. "The Blues Came Callin" will be released worldwide on Monday June 2. The songs on the album reflect Walter̢۪s thoughts about mortality and his renewed appreciation for being alive.

As he became physically weaker, he fought to continue touring, and found that playing for people was powerful medicine. Like the title of the new studio album, the blues definitely came callin̢۪ for Walter. It kept him fighting, and in the process, it made him more determined than ever. Walter says: "To play my music for people has become even more important to me. When I think about looking out into the crowds of people and connecting with everyone on a soul level, and sharing the experience of music with them, this is what keeps me fighting to get back: My family and my music is my lifeline. These days, it means more to me than ever before."

Recorded throughout 2013 and early 2014, the new album features 12 new songs of which 10 are originals. One is written by his old boss John Mayall for the occasion, one is a J.B. Lenoir cover. Walter searches his soul on this album and lays it bare allowing new appreciation for life. The blues comes full circle; both as a reflective statement about his life and career, and as an all-penetrating desire to get back on stage and do what he loves most.

Instead of my usual review style, I will let Walter give you his own track by track guide. But take it from me; this is an essential addition to any discerning record collection. If you are a blues fan and you don't get this, then maybe you are NOT a real blues fan! Simples.

"The Bottom Of The River"
It is a figurative expression, a metaphor, of what I have been going through recently. It tells the story of a man who is pulled and held on the bottom of a river by the current. He realizes that he is about to drown; it seems like too much of a fight to get back up to the surface. Then in an instant he has a deep understanding – and he hears his inner voice tell him that it is not his time to die. He looks within, fights the current with all he’s got, and makes it up to the surface for that life-giving breath. At that moment he notices the beauty of the world which he had always previously taken for granted. He realizes that he is now a man who is forever changed.

"The Blues Came Callin̢۪ "
This is the title track, and features my friend and mentor, John Mayall on Hammond B3 organ. In a traditional blues format it tells the story of a man lying in bed who is suddenly gripped tightly by the blues. The blues comes in through his window, holds on to the man and will not let him free. All night long it says to him: "You’ll never be the man you used to be." We can sometimes be our own worst fear-mongers – this is what this song is about.

"Wastin̢۪ Away"
You will hear in this track that even if my body is wasting away. I am defiant about it. I will not go gentle into that good night!

"Take A Little Time"
I̢۪ve done many Chuck Berry̢۪esque songs over my recording career, but this one probably comes closest to having an authentic Chess Records feel. It̢۪s inspired by the breakneck pace that everyone I know seems to be living their lives at these days. If you are unfulfilled and looking for love, you̢۪re going to need to take a little time out from the rat race and take care of your own heart.

"Tight Shoes"
This is a Freddie King̢۪esque guitar instrumental piece. The title comes from my father, Ed Trout, Sr. When I was a kid, he took the family out to dinner at a swanky restaurant in Atlantic City. It was very quiet and sombre.As he got up to leave, he inadvertently cut loose with a massive, thunderous, earth-shaking fart. The whole place stopped and looked at him in horror. He just turned to the room, looked at everybody there, shrugged his shoulders and said, "Tight shoes." His humour and sense of confidence has left a lasting impression on me.

"The Whale"
This song was written by the great Mr. J.B. Lenoir. John Mayall turned me on to Mr. Lenoir̢۪s music many years ago. This is my tribute to JB and also to Mr. Mayall.

"Willie"
This song is about the many times I have been ripped off by many different people in the music business in my past. I chose the name because it sings well. But it is about the experience of trusting somebody to handle your business affairs, and then having them steal from you and exploit their position.

"Hard Time"
It̢۪s a funky song that compares your lover leaving you to doing hard time in solitary. But this solitary is all in your mind and in your heart; an invisible psychological cage.

"Mayall̢۪s Piano Boogie"
When John Mayall came in the studio, I asked him to play some old style boogie woogie piano. He began playing, Eric Corne pushed "record," the rest of us quietly walked in the studio and joined in. It̢۪s a spontaneous, one-take, no-rehearsal jam.

"Born In The City "
I spent a good part of my youth wandering in the city of Philadelphia, and I grew to love being in big energetic, bustling cities. Never did feel like living the life of a country gentleman!

"The World Is Goin̢۪ Crazy(And So Am I)"
A blues-rocker which basically says: If I take a long look around, sometimes I feel like I̢۪m just gonna completely lose my mind at the state of the world.

"Nobody Moves Me Like You Do"
This song is written specifically for my beloved wife, Marie. It is my gift to her. It sums up my feelings for her.

The award of 10/10 for this record in no way reflects Walter̢۪s ill health. It is not a charity vote. It is warranted. A 21st century blues album from a genuinely honest, caring, compassionate man who is a frigging awesome guitar player and singer to boot. Those years of hard living have taken their toll on his body, but it ain't stopped him yet. Long may that be the case. See you soon WT, back on stage where you belong.

â€Â¢ Visit Walter's fan-organised fundraising page: www.youcaring.com and please donate. $202,720 of a $250,000 total had been raised by friends and fans, at the time writing this review. Various benefit gigs had been organised in UK, Norway and USA too - a big one at London’s 02 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 4th May.
Words SIMON REDLEY

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