'Full Circle' is an all star album featuring leading contemporary blues practitioners such as John Mayall, Jeff Healey, Coco Montoya, Joe Bonamassa and Guitar Shorty who have featured significantly in guitarist Walter Trout’s burgeoning career. And unlike his previous powerful rock blues efforts this is essentially a one off blues album to accommodate the all star cast.
Perhaps the most significant two things about ‘Full Circle’ is the fact that the material was written in a very spontaneous manner to suit the guests concerned, and the real reason for the success of the project is the fact that ‘Full Circle’ brings out the best of the playing ability of all concerned.
There’s also a ‘radical’ departure (pun intended) for Walter himself, in as much he enters the project without his regular band The Radicals – albeit they do pop up individually and collectively on different tracks. In short, Walter pays his own homage to the blues styles and players that have influenced him, without losing his rock roots in the long term. And where better to start than with his old mentor John Mayall?
The opening slow blues 'She Takes More Than She Gives' finds Walter's passionate vocals and big toned guitar in perfect synch with John Mayall’s edgy vocals and fine harp and piano playing. Where Mayall was once the father figure Trout is now the driving force, having learned from his mentor how to coax the best possible performance from his assorted guests.
The following track is the single 'Working Overtime' which is a sledgehammer riff driven outing featuring Canadian Jeff Healey. There’s nothing startlingly new here other than a mutual celebration of a frisson inspired jam that also colours similar Trout liaisons with Guitar Shorty and Joe Bonamassa.
But the strength of this album lies in the exploration of the varied composite blues influences that have brought Walter into the forefront of the contemporary Rock Blues field. And it is very doubtful that anyone outside of the very best handful of guitar players would have taken this kind of chance to just meet up with assorted guests in a studio and lay it all down warts and all. The fact that the results are so good speaks volumes for all concerned.
Just as important is the wide variety of styles to be found in the 13 tracks. Walter’s heartfelt rendering of Luther Allison's 'When Will It Ever Change' with his son Bernard is a telling moment while some swing led jump blues with Canned Heat's Junior Watson and deep harp led blues with James Harman all demonstrate a wide take on the blues idiom.
The spontaneous jam feel underpinning much of the album is gloriously exemplified by the meeting of Walter and the ‘latest kid on the block’ Joe Bonamassa. For those of us immersed in the European live rock blues scene, the 'Clouds On The Horizon' track is the kind of meeting of major talent that we have long waited for, and the results certainly don’t disappoint. Rather than being a tedious overdubbed studio affair, both guitarists give it their all in a spontaneous way that makes you wonder why so many famed musicians before them have had such trouble transposing their talent to the studio situation. Perhaps the answer lies in both proponent’s jam antecedents, and their willingness to follow the Buddy Guy ideal of just going for it, whatever the consequences. And what makes both this track and the album that bit more special than other similar guest ridden efforts is that feel of taking a chance. The spontaneous edge and of course a collective sense of pride give ‘Full Circle’ a genuine organic feel.
The album is nicely rounded off by DJ Larry Keene in the form of a 60’s style radio rap which outlines both the geographical and historical origins of the excellent and diverse blues styles to be found on this excellent album.