Wednesday 23 January 2019

Walter Trout - Survivor Blues (2019)

Country: USA
Style: Blues Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 25 Jan 2019
Sites: Facebook | Official Website

Walter Trout has, in blues parlance, paid his dues. He joined Canned Heat in 1981 then moved on to John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. He formed his own Walter Trout Band in 1989 and a succession of albums and tours have followed, under evolving names. Nowadays he's recording as simply Walter Trout but he's as good as he ever was, if not better.

Yet he chose to release a covers album anyway, albeit one that doesn't feature any tracks that most people would recognise as covers. The artists covered here are folk like Sunnyland Slim, Luther Johnson and J. B. Lenoir, not to forget Jimmy Dawkins, who's a particular focus.

Me, My Guitar and the Blues kicks this blues rock album off how he means to go on, with some soaring guitar work that feels somehow like liquid fire. He's not playing notes, he's forging sound shapes out of elements that float around him. It's stunning stuff and we can't help but sit back and let it all wash over us.

The downside, as with much blues music, is the lyrics, which, of course, Trout didn't write. The best of them here are clich├ęd and the worst of them are cringeworthy. Then again words are hardly the point here, except for a few message songs like John Mayall's Nature's Disappearing.

What Trout sells is energy and the energy level here is way up. His backing band are a force of nature and they underpin tracks as incessantly driving as any I've heard since the Mick Clarke Band made No Compromise and that album came back to mind more than once while listening to this one.

Even when he slows things down somewhat, like with Sadie or the harmonica fuelled Nature's Disappearing, the energy level stays high and we're always ready for Trout's guitar to erupt into another blistering solo, like he does late in Red Sun. Songs like these may be breathers but we're still paying attention. It's hard not to and it's hard for our feet not to follow suit.

While Trout's guitar is the focal point throughout (he's a capable if not noteworthy vocalist), he does bring in a couple of guests. Woman Don't Lie features the vocal talents of Sugaray Rayford who notched up four nods at the Blues Music Awards last year. Mississippi Fred McDowell's Goin' Down to the River features some tasty slide work from Robby Krieger of the Doors.

All in all, this is yet another solid and reliable album from Trout that maintains a high level of energy and quality but could have done with a few more standouts.

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