“The Outsider” is an apt title for one of Walter Trout’s very best albums. For having spent his youth in the turmoil of the sixties and then having clawed his way up the rock blues ladder via Canned Heat, John Lee Hooker and John Mayall, Trout has still been fighting his own battle after a consistent 18 album, 20 year solo career, best eclipsed on his humorous tour t shirts, ‘Too many notes too loud’. In fact the two things “The Outsider” is full of is excellent songs and stellar guitar playing. And it is only when you’ve digested the characters and sentiments of all 13 songs including the title track, that you realise this is a thinly veiled concept album.
Walter meticulously delineates the characters that have populated his musical world over the last 35 odd years. Not one to rest on his laurels Trout has been as prolific a song writer as he has been a road rat. Songs like “Child of Another Day” make the point that we all have to move on, while the last verse of this riff driven rocker is according to Walter ‘aimed at those blues critics who continually say 'he's playing a million notes again and this isn't the real blues’.
In fact the album’s magnificent opener “Welcome to the Human Race” is a top drawer rock-blues song with Walter’s emotive singing matched all the way by some inspired trademark guitar work.
Interestingly this album sees Trout working with a new producer John Porter and a stellar cast of studio musicians with occasional individual contributions from his band The Radicals. And the change seems to have paid off as there’s an intensity and consistency from beginning to end. Porter certainly gets the best vocal performance out of Walter so far, while Trout’s guitar work is not only burning but full of different tonal inflections that make this such an enjoyable album.
“Don’t Wanna Fall” sounds a little like Free while the magnificent power shuffle “The Love Song of J Alfred Bluesrock” is everything that long time fans love about their hero, being finely honed rock-blues with plenty of bluster. But there are several successful stylistic diversions too, most notably the radio friendly “All My Life” and the even more impressive and very poignant “The Next Big Thing” which concludes with a post Beatles “Revolver” style guitar outro.
“The Outsider” also includes a track about the Bollywood film star Sanjay Dutt. Recently released from prison this heartthrob of the Indian continent was himself bewitched by Walter’s music and twice brought him over to play in India twice. For an outsider Walter Trout is doing very nicely, and this album is one of the very best rock blues albums of the year.