Walter Trout – Survivor Blues
The old blues are therapy for Walter Trout. On days when he is down, hurting, having issues or the like, he finds that old blues songs perk him up. Neither he nor anyone else can describe why these old songs and albums can restore the soul; Walter’s wife Marie writes in the liner notes that the trials and tribulations that old blues artists went through make our woes seem trivial. Perhaps the connection to their woes creates a connection between the listener and the artist.
We get to hear the popular old songs covered hundreds and even thousands of times per year. Walter was not looking for those tunes to use as his form of therapy; he searched the catalogue of blues music for lesser known cuts that did not garner the same level of fame yet still provide resounding messages and feeling . I think he’s achieved his purpose. He and his band play these songs as if they are their own, not recreating them note for note but in new and respectful ways.
The main set of artists here with Walter are Michael Leasure on drums, Johnny Griparic on bass, and Skip Edwards on various things keys. Trout does the guitar and vocals; the occasional guest is noted below.
Trout kicks things off with Jimmy Dawkins “Me, My Guitar and the Blues.” Walter’s guitar howls and wails with deep and dark emotion. He begins with a stinging solo intro and then hits the vocals hard. The guitar is stunning, the vocals are full of emotion; it’s a wonderful opening cut. Next up is a Sunnyland Slim cut, “Be Careful How You Vote.” It’s a raucous and intense ride, with hot tempo-ed guitar, shouted lyrics and Walter also blowing a little harp for effect. He greases up the Mississippi saxophone and trades some awesome licks with it and his guitar in response. Sugaray Rayford joins Trout on vocals for “Woman Don’t Lie.” This is a Luther “Snake Boy” Johnson song, and Trout adds Teddy Andreadis on Wurlitzer as Edwards mans the B3. Rayford and Trout trade vocals and Walter offers up another huge guitar solo to enjoy. “Sadie,” an old Hound Dog Taylor cut, takes things down a few notches in tempo. While more subdued, Trout lets loose a bit on his guitar and he and band set up a nice groove. B.B. King gets a nice cover of his “Please Love Me,”picking up the pace a bit as Walter gets his guitar lubed up and wailing early on. They get a nice little shuffle going and Walter belts out the lyrics sweetly and, of course, delivers another high intensity guitar solo mid song and then takes us home with the guitar, too. John Mayall’s “Nature’s Disappearing” is next, a cut about how we are raping and pillaging our land. It’s a jazzy sort of cut, with more subdued guitar and harp by Trout. While showing restraint, Walter also showcases his musicality and talents well.
The second half opens with “Red Sun,” a Floyd Lee song. His producer Eric Corne joins in on shaker. The beat is strident and it’s a powerful, midtempo blues about a drought. Trout’s guitar rings solidly as he offers another pretty solo. Elmore James’ “Something Inside Of Me” is next, a beautiful slow blues with guitar and organ testifying cooly. It’s a great cut that builds a bit to a nice finish. Otis Rush is covered next with “It Takes Time.” The tempo rises and emotions similarly rise as Trout belts out the lead. There is lots and lots of guitar here to savor- very well done. “Out Of Bad Luck” stays on Chicago’s West Side, this time with Magic Sam. Trout testifies vocally with lots of emotion and then blasts out his guitar solo. Edwards’ piano provides good accompaniment within this one, too. Robby Krieger joins Trout on slide guitar for “Goin’ Down To The River,” an old Mississippi Fred McDowell tune. This one is pretty and slow Delta-blues with the slide slipping in and out to good effect. The guitars interplay as backline sets up a deliberate pace. Well done, once again! Trout concludes with J.B. Lenoir’s “God’s Word.” Walter testifies and takes us to church a bit with his vocals. The entire second half of the song is a concluding guitar solo that Trout works his magic on.
This may have been a therapeutic set for Walter to deliver, but it’s just great stuff. Each song is a little unique and offers different sides to the blues to enjoy. Trout takes each tune and crafts it into his own, making a cool dozen musical statements for us to enjoy. There is stellar guitar work here, super vocals, and a tight set of musicians working with Trout. I loved this album and think any lover of superb blues guitar will, too. Trout is spot on and just a joy to listen to on this stellar album!