Blues-rock guitar, full-speed ahead
Reviewed July 2008
By Walter Trout
Megaforce Records: 2008
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
Blues-rock singer/guitarist Walter Trout may not be a household name, but he has legions of fans in Europe, is usually highly placed on polls in blues guitar magazines, and his take-no-prisoners style has been featured in Canned Heat and John Mayall as far back as the early '80s. A close cousin in style to former bandmate Coco Montoya and other bluesmen like Jimmy Thackery, Trout has been on his own since 1990, and has released 16 discs (many with his band The Radicals), several featuring live performances where his flashy blues fretwork is best appreciated.
While most of his background is rooted in blues, an idiom in which he has taken critical heat for occasionally overplaying, his new release, "The Outsider," clearly shows that his own focus is definitely more towards rocking up his music. Trout also isn't about to change his style at this point and lay down two notes where he can put in four and still have it sound good. Backed by a rhythm section and occasional keyboards that are not customary Radicals members this time out, Trout has written material with familiar themes but, thanks to good arrangements and changing up the pace, he keeps it interesting and through nearly 70 minutes doesn't bog the listener down with a continuous lead guitar assault.
In the opener, "Welcome to the Human Race," Trout presents autobiographical hard times in between some heavy blues pyrotechnics to good effect. "The Next Big Thing" works as a bit about the new fast guitar gun in town (and features the only slide work by Trout on the disc in a brief closing solo). "The Love Song Of J. Alfred Bluesrock" recalls Stevie Ray Vaughan in full burn mode, and features the best guitar work on the disc. "Don't Wanna Fall" is a balls-out grinder in the style of early Johnny Winter And or Mountain. In "Child of Another Day," Trout takes his critics to task with a lyric about critics of his crash-and-burn style, in the midst of a maelstrom of fast blues riffs:
Here comes a guy I've seen a million times before
He tells me to slow it down, he says remember less is more ...
He doesn't understand it, it don't sound like it should
It don't fit his preconceptions so it can't be any good
But I just ignore him I don't care what he say
Other worthy, rock-oriented cuts include "The Restless Age" and a rare ballad, "Turn Your Eyes to Heaven." His vocals throughout are soulful, with an unforced growl that works well for a blues-rock frontman (unlike British guitarist Gary Moore, who has similarly been slammed as a showoff, and sings horribly). "Gone Too Long," "Can't Have It All" and "The Outsider" are all showcases for Trout's blues guitar prowess.
The length of the disc (with many of the songs around six minutes to accommodate two guitar solos) and unbridled fire of the playing is much like getting a live music disc, but one with the polish of studio production. Since Trout doesn't try to evoke subtlety, the only problem (if one can call it that) with the disc as a whole is that by its end his debt to such contemporaries and predecessors as Rory Gallagher, Buddy Guy, Winter and Vaughn are very evident due to the repetition of his full-shred scales and fretboard technique on many of the 13 tunes. On the other hand, there is the old adage, "If you can do it, it ain't bragging", and Walter Trout is a brilliant guitarist in his own right, clearly shown on "The Outsider."
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.