Ranked as #6 in a BBC radio poll of the top 20 all-time greatest guitarists, alongside such greats as Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Gary Moore and others of the ilk, Walter Trout, is now riding to the top in the United States. His influence has, in the past two years, become known to every blues fan and guitar player around. And now, it's his turn to influence a whole generation of guitarists-both blues and rock.
After 35 years behind the neck of a Fender Stat, and, after playing alongside of such names as John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton, Canned Heat and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Walter Trout's reputation as an honest songwriter, stratospheric guitarist, and mesmerizing frontman is being unleashed by Ruf Records in America. His 3rd album for Ruf, Go the Distance, follows a wild two CD set, Live Trout, recorded at the 2000 Tampa Bay Blues Festival. That was a milestone performance, which he repeated live this year.
Go the Distance, produced by Jim Gaines, (Blues Traveler, Santana, Stevie Ray Vaughan) is Trout's most personal album to date. His songwriting ability certainly shines through here, with a song dedicated to his wife, Marie, (Faithful), songs about friends long gone, (Bugle Billy), and songs about life on the road and the road's influences on the artist. No fan will be disappointed, because the searing blues-rock passages Walter is known for are still here. He is in great form, and the whole band is tight, tight, tight. Bill Mason, Walter's new B3 and piano man, is a welcome addition to the band. While losing longtime drummer, Bernie Perskey, ahead of an eight month booked tour, Walter still feels great about Kenny Soule on Drums. "It has become a positive thing for my band." Jimmy Trapp is solid on bass. This is the band that will take Walter Trout on a newly booked American and European tour into the year 2002. I know that his huge European following will relish the chance to hear the band and welcome him back.
Cuts like Ride 'til I'm Satisfied, Out of Control, and the title cut Go the Distance, certainly sum up Walter Trout. The man currently does over 200 performances a year. He is not about to slow down, and swears by his love of the road. "Since I started on the road 25 years ago, I've never been bored on the road….it's always an adventure." Ride 'til I'm Satisfied should go to the top of the list of everyone's favorite road trip song. With it's Texas shuffle boogie, it's at the top of my list.
Four songs, Love So Deep, Faithful, Doin' Just Fine, and Always Been A Dreamer, are, obvious homages to Walter's wife, Marie. She is his manager and, as he says.. "She's my partner and supporter and believes in what I'm doing. She feels like it's my mission in life to go and play for people, and God put me here to do that. So she's way behind me." Love So Deep has a Canned Heat like boogie style, driving some great guitar work. Faithful has a more country-homey, tender style, with a straightforward message and real feeling. Doin' Just Fine is about a certain sense of commitment and honesty, no matter what comes up in life. There is great organ by Bill Mason on this one. Always Been A Dreamer is an acoustic guitar tune that I liked for its simplicity and positive message. Acoustic guitar (dare I say it) is something I would like to see Walter explore a bit more, (Sorry, bluesrock fans), it could add some drama to the show. I would like to see how he could get around on acoustic. Surprise us, Walter!
Bugle Billy, about a friend that died in Vietnam, is one of Walter's favorites. It is acoustic, and sad, but will strike home to anyone who has lost a friend over there. Down To You is what Walter calls "blatantly Christian", but I found it to be a cry that keeps everyone on this road and plugging along.
Looking For The Promised Land is an affirmation of Trout's feeling that something is promised here and we need to look for that affirmation. Certainly he has found a good deal of it. Message On The Doorway is an addition to the chronicle of songs about life in Huntington Beach, CA, which is Walter's hometown now. Catch the guitar on this-it reminds me of Roy Buchanan & Gary Moore, or something like that. I think his European fans will love this one. Lastly, I Don't Want My MTV is a really funny, drivin', rockin' Chuck Berry influenced send up of what, if any one thing, is wrong with the world. "Roll over Martha Quinn, and tell Kurt Loder the news." It just proves that Walter Trout has his Rock & Roll shoes on.
Walter says "I love my new album!" So do I, Walter, so do I!
Official Web site: www.waltertrout.com
Fan e-mail: Radicals@waltertrout.com
This review is copyright © 2001 by Gary Miller, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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