WALTER TROUT COMES HOME
"Iíve got ten million miles behind me," Walter states in his song "Come Home." Trout has quite literally put on the miles since his days as a young lad in his home state of New Jersey. He left NJ as he entered his twenties to live in Philadelphia. His experiences in that city as a rehab counselor left an indelible, emotional mark within his soul, experiences that he eluded to in a song he wrote titled "Transitions." He spent a couple years there, then on to California.
A chance meeting got him in the band fronted by Jesse Ed Davis, a studio guitarist who played on Taj Mahal albums and John Lennonís first solo albums. Eventually Walter played guitar as a sideman to Big Mama Thornton, Joe Tex and John Lee Hooker.
But the song "I Can Tell," which began the show at Minnesota Music Cafť, contained the line "You got leaviní on your mind." And the first departure from the homeland came when the group Canned Heat needed someone to do a tour in Australia, replacing the late Bob Hite. This was a 4-1/2 year stint for him. Along the way, he sat in one night for the ailing John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers. He became a Bluesbreaker for 5 years, traveling to Europe with the group. Then leaviní took its biggest hold. A Danish promoter convinced him to go solo and tour Europe. Many "miles behind" him, Walter came home to the MN Music Cafe in St. Paul, for the first leg of his homecoming. This was extended family night. I heard some commenting that their absent friends suggested to get to the venue early. Many in the crowd were new to Walterís live performance.
"Walkiní in the Rain" followed the rockiní opening song. The bluesy guitar licks and gritty vocals put everyone in a real blues mood. Then the funky number "Say What You Mean" captivated everyone. This is one of many songs where Walter shares the spotlight with the "fellas." The "fellas", Paul Kallestad, keyboardist, James Trapp, bass guitarist and Bernard Pershey, drummer, contribute equally, creating a tight delivery to this dedication to our illustrious leaders. "You can run, but you got nowhere to hide."
Now we are treated to what Walter Trout the man is all about. He tells us, "I feel like playiní here." "Reason Iím Gone" becomes a display of his lifeís work abroad. The lights are dimmed in the house. The classic cello sound coming from his guitar floats through the air. Itís a hot one in the town tonight. But Walter transfers his emotions into those present, evoking from several the word, "COOL."
The rockiní "Come Home" picks up the tempo again. Next Walter shares a personal moment in his life, indicative of the intimate atmosphere already created. "Marieís Mood" is a moving instrumental. Marie is Walterís wife, who is from Denmark. This song was composed during a crisis approximately 10 yrs. ago. Marie was 17 weeks pregnant. Complications began to set in. Doctors ordered her to lie flat on her back for the duration, proclaiming that the child would probably be lost. This piece came out of the moments during which Walter played the guitar for her at her bedside. Their faith and prayers were answered. A healthy son, Michael, was born. Walter receives long applause at the end of this song.
The first set winds down with "Put It Right Back" and "Finally Gotten Over You." "Gotta Broken Heart," a rocker with a repetitive drumbeat and a groove, completes the set. Once again we are treated to gripping guitar licks and equal musicianship from the fellas in the band. During the song, "Gotta Broken Heart," Walter beckons the crowd by yelling "Twin Cities do you feel all right tonight?", coaxing an enthusiastic response from an otherwise sedate group. The crowd was not lively, but seemed to be mesmerized by Walterís talking guitar, sort of spellbound by his fiery delivery and the bandís flawless performance.
A chilling moment took place just before the second act. The MN Music Cafe displays on itís walls memorabilia of bands. Keeping with the nostalgic approach, a screen was dropped down from centerstage. We were treated to vintage footage of a much younger Walter Trout, on stage with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. Walter, on screen, went into a guitar break, showing us that some of his current style was being perfected then. Up steps Walter dueling with his past self. Brought Goosebumps to me, I tell you. Kudos to the cafe for this rare moment.
The second set began with a rockiní tune, "Dust My Broom." This song, written by the infamous Robert Johnson, was the debut release for blues great Elmore James. This was an impassioned, exciting version by Walter and the Free Radicals. A funky little number followed called "Sweet As a Flower," then the crowd favorite and Walterís most poignant song in his repertoire, "Liviní Every Day." Though it was a hot night, Minnesotans could relate to the beginning lines, "Winter time is settiní in, air so cold that it burns your skin. The trees are dyiní, branches bare, the wind cuts through you like it just donít care; and youíre only tryiní to find a way, to keep liviní everyday." The crowd is brought to its feet by this searing, message-filled piece.
Walter continues the momentum with a loverís plea, "Let Me Know," a song he wrote with the late Luther Allison in mind. His wishes to hear him sing it never materialized. Bernieís tight drum work, Paulís shining keyboard notes and Jamesí haunting bass playing added credence to this song. Paul and James commented to me later in the night, "Put us in a kitchen and we will play for anyone." And play they did.
The personal feel is enhanced by the next number, "On the Rise." Lyrics embedded in this song best describe the artist Walter Trout and his close relationship with his fans. "I can feel a special kind of magic, you just walk across the floor, I feel the shaking of my body, and you know just what itís for, now the temperature is rising and it comes to no surprise, I can see that your soul is filled with passion ..." Once again the spotlight is shared. Bernie does a drum solo that is a treat to watch and hear. Bernie resided in Minnesota for ten years, playing with the bands Brainiac and White Lightning. In the crowd were close friends from that period in his life. He just glowed as he played for them. Truly a highlight of the night.
In keeping with Walterís feeling at home here in Minnesota, he covered Bob Dylanís "I Shall be Released." I heard Walterís band do this previously at another show last year. This was a much improved version, beautifully done with feeling. The members of the band really hit on this one. You could just feel Walter reflecting. "So, I remember every face of every man who put me here," a line that evokes Walterís influences: Ellington, Butterfield, Hooker, Tex, Dylan, Allison, Mayall, Bloomfield, Santana. Carlos Santana presented Walter with a book titled "Discover Your Possibilities," by Robert Schuller. He gave it to him at a time in his life when Walter was struggling with his demons. He set aside his addictions and from that point on he has shown, to anyone who will listen, what he has discovered in himself. "I see my life come shining..."
The last song "Serve Me Right to Suffer", a John Lee Hooker tune, serves as a ripping finishing touch. Bernie once again shines for the home crowd on the drums. The lights in the house come on and the crowd is in a trance, looking like they had just experienced an alien abduction. But wait, out of the audience comes a messenger. She takes over the mike and exhorts to everyone, "Letís hear it one more time." Walter stops signing autographs and returns to the stage. Jokingly he refers to her as his sister, indicative of this being family night at the cafe. Dancing begins as WTFR (Walter Trout & the Free Radicals) rip into CCRís "Fortunate Son." The Twin Cities is feeling all right by their favorite son, Walter Trout. Walter has arrived. He has COME HOME. No longer is he a stranger in his own homeland.
This review is copyright © 2000 by Frankie Abts, 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.