Plenty of flash
Reviewed August 2009
Unspoiled by Progress
By Walter Trout
Mascot Records: 2009
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
Guitarist Walter Trout has been around since the '80s, and has cut a swath through the blues scene with his flamboyant, shred-like-hell-on-every-song style. While his background with Canned Heat and John Mayall and most of his material get him pegged as a blues player, his style is really that of a rock 'n' roller with a need for speed and as a result he has never been a darling of critics.
On his own since '89, his new one is titled "Unspoiled by Progress" and collects a batch of live recordings over the span of his solo career, as well as five studio tracks, three of them new. Trout is decent growler on the vocals, and one thing is a constant: lots of lead guitar, most of it fast and frantic. The 12 music tracks run over 78 minutes, room for plenty of flash.
It is clear from the first track, "They Call Us the Working Class," a new song, that Trout hasn't mellowed. The tune features lyrics about the stimulus plan and solos that are almost restrained compared to the rest of the disc, with some slick, fluid lines out of the Dicky Betts songbook. Trout may tend to overplay, but he can coax some really sweet individual notes out of his guitar and is very good with string bending and vibrato when he isn't trying to burn the frets off.
"Going Down" follows, from a 1991 BBC studio recording, and this traditional vehicle for lead guitar showboating is played surprisingly straight, as Trout plays fast but not overindulgently. "Life in the Jungle" and "Long Tall Sally" start a run of live tracks from 1989 and 1991 and Trout tends to throw in everything but the kitchen sink on lengthy solos. These don't necessarily represent bad music, as he is very good and in a live situation. On "Somebody Acting Like a Child" he transforms what is a light blues shuffle by Mayall into a Hendrix clinic as the highlight live track basically becomes an homage to Jimi's version of "Killing Floor." "Finally Gotten Over You" takes a slow blues framework and shows the problem that can happen when a live blues blazer gets going for 11 1/2 minutes, with way too much high-speed work on the upper register than the song is really made for.
Trout cleans up some of the extra notes on "Marie's Mood," a slower instrumental that has him laying in some tasteful scales, only slipping in extra smoke here and there.
Walter Trout is clearly "Unspoiled by Progress," and he is committed to his approach. The disc at times sounds like a blues riff sampler, but Trout pulls it off. Guitar fans will love this, and hard blues rock audiences should as well.
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.