You won't be able to find many 67-years old as talented, lively and charismatic on the face of the earth as California-based Blues/Rock Hero Walter Trout. His life's tapestry has been and still is something of almost a supernatural nature, given the series of life events that the guitarist and singer/songwriter has been through.
Among the many definition that Bluebird Reviews can find on the World Wide Web about the meaning of the word "regeneration", especially when it comes to biology, the one that our website likes the most is "The process of renewal, restoration, and growth that makes genomes, cells, organisms, and ecosystems resilient to natural fluctuations or events that cause disturbance or damage."
In a strange kind of way, the roller-coasting living process above explained can be compared to what happened to Trout's personal life. In a career where the Blues/Rock Icon has reached many artistic highs and some deeply personal lows, nobody would have ever bet on the extraordinary quality of Trout's artistic comeback of the last 3 years, culminated in the 2017's highly acclaimed record We're All In This Together, not even The Artist Himself. Just like a living blood cell, the singer/songwriter and guitarist has miraculously come back victorious, recharged and artistically regenerated, despite all he went through in the last half a century, from the 70's heavy drug abuse to the more recent liver transplant, something that almost took his life.
One of the very few Last Men Standing of the 70's Blues/Rock generation that provided new lifeblood to the many transformations that the Blues has been through the last century, Trout is and has always been one of the most loved and respected giants of the genre, something on which not just Trout's fans but also the entire circus of the music business agrees on.
Trout's latest album, We're All In This Together, a record where the artist has surrounded himself by the most important and influential fellow Blues/Rock guitarists of the last 5 decades, is the ultimate confirmation of how alive and very much kicking the California-based artistically and musically is, through a record in which he duets on each song with outstanding Maestros of the instrument, from Randy Bachman to Robben Ford, from Kenny Wayne Shepherd to Eric Gales.
Fresh from winning also the Bluebird Reviews 2017 Award as Best Live Act, ex-aequo with another hugely talented artist like Samantha Fish, Walter Trout welcomes Bluebird Reviews with his usual verve and joie de vivre, through a strong and warm handshake and a hug. Whilst congratulating the guitarist on such a splendid new record like We're All In This Together, our website is keen to know whether Trout wrote each individual song of the album with a specific idea in mind of who would have been playing with, as Special Guest, before starting the recording process of the album. "Yes, I did. When I had the list of guests, after I knew who was going to play on the record, then I started writing the songs. What I did was, I took each individual guest and I sat down and thought about what they do. Some of them, I listened to a bunch of their music and I tried, for my record, to write something that I thought would be really good for them, matching their playing style. What I tried to do was, rather than writing songs that were about me and they had to fit in to what I do, I tried instead to write songs designed for them and then I had to fit in with what they do best. That was my goal, on this album. I can give you an example. I sat down and I thought to myself: "Ok, I have Randy Bachman, for instance. Now, Randy Bachman is universally known for what he did for The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive and he wrote a lot of great classic Rock songs". But then I thought about the time when Randy was growing up, to what he was listening to when he was a kid and started up his career. It was mostly 50's Rock and Roll, people like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, those were the Originals Rock and Roll guys. So I thought that, for him, I should write something that's it's a kind of 50's rock and roll song, but it must have also room for guitar solos. I used the same kind of thought process when it was the time to write songs for other artists and another example I can give you, is for Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Kenny's contemporary stuff is very Blues/Rock orientated but I know that his original inspiration was the Blues, just as mine was too. So I thought that, what I was going to write for Kenny, was going to be something that would allow he and I to get back to our common roots, our Blues inspirations. So I came up with an up-tempo shuffle and when the time came to write the lyrics, I thought about me and the time when I used to be a drug addict and I know how it felt like when the drugs run out. It hurts. So, coming back to your original question, for each of the Special Guest artists, I wrote a song with them in mind. I can tell you a really great story about Edgar Winter too. He came in and I said "Hey Edgar, I've had troubles writing for you, because you play everything! You play all different genres of music and having heard a lot of your music, I wasn't sure on what to choose for you". And he said to me (that's why I thought that this was a great story to tell to you), "Walter, you know, my original love, the main one, is the Blues but when my brother started playing the guitar, I thought to myself that he'd got the Blues covered, I needed to play something different". I told him "Yes, your brother definitely had the Blues covered!" and we both laughed at that and at that point, it was clear for me what to write for Edgar".
Walter Trout with the Bluebird Reviews Award 2017
Trout has been working for many years and many albums with his trusted friend and fellow artist Eric Corne, as the producer of his records and We're All In This Together is no exception. We ask the guitarist to explain, in his own words, what makes so special working with Corne for Walter Trout, beside his experience and the great quality he always delivers on Trout's records. "Well, Eric has really become a musical partner of mine and we have done now, I believe, something like 11 albums together. The thing with Eric is, he seems to have an intrinsic understanding of what it is that I am trying to do with my music. He just seems to know and he has the same ideas as to what the music should sound like and we just work really well together. I worked with a lot of different producers in the past and Eric just seems to understand me in a way that the other ones didn't. I can tell you when I met Eric. It was 2005 and I was planning to do an album called Full Circle. I was looking for a studio in Los Angeles and I was driving around with Marie (Trout, Walter's wife), looking at different recording studios. When we entered this one studio in particular, there was this young engineer and I thought to myself "This is a young guy, he probably wants to record Hip-Hop or stuff like that and it is not gonna work with me". I started talking to him and I said, "Well, if we record here, I am going to bring in some Special Guests". Eric replied "Like who?" to which I said "Well, I am going to bring in this guy named John Mayall". Eric looked at me, astonished, saying "John Mayall??? You mean THE John Mayall?" and I said "Yeah!". The funniest thing was when Eric said to me "Do you think that Mayall would sign my album?" "Yes, I think so", I replied (laughs). Then Eric goes "When I was in High School, I used to skip school, so that I could see John Mayall playing" and I thought to myself "Ok, this kid is awesome!". It turns out that Eric's first musical love is Blues and American Roots type of music. Even though he was a young guy at the time, he was not into Pop music or Hip-Hop, none of that stuff. He was into Blues, that's what he loved and still loves. We work together great, I gotta tell you".
Walter Trout has been making splendid records since the 70's, but still, the artist's latest album remains among those that carries the true testimony of Trout's talent as a guitarist and as a singer and songwriter. Bluebird Reviews is wondering whether there was any moment, in the making of We're All In This Together, when Trout thought "Wow, music can't get any better than this". "I am always very critical of myself. I thought that the album was sounding really great but maybe I could have played a better solo on one part or two, stuff like that. There are different places of the album, when I listen to it, when I thought I could have done some things a little better but perhaps it is because I am always my worst own critic. I have to say that, when I heard the final mix, I really thought that the album sounded great. One of the things that I thought too was that Eric (Corne) himself did such a great job on many levels. For example, take The Sky Is Crying's song. Eric did such a fabulous job to put that stuff together that you cannot tell that Warren (Haynes) and I were not in the same room. It sounds rather like Warren and I are standing there, side by side and looking at each other, in the same room and we were playing at the same time. Eric made that possible so credit to him for the incredible job he did too".
Among the many Guest Stars on the guitarist's new album, it's rather great to hear how Trout and Randy Bachman sounded, on the song Got Nothing Left, so spectacularly in tune with one another like they had played together all their lives. "I am going to tell you another long story on this (giggling). I was invited last year to the Jeff Healey Memorial Concert, in Toronto and on the bill, that night, there was Sonny Landreth, Randy Bachman, Philip Sayce and a bunch of other guys. I was walking through the venue, where we rehearsed the day before the concert with a group of Canadian musician, because my band wasn't with me that night. All of a sudden, some guy walked up to me, tapped me on the shoulder and said: "I am your biggest fan! I was driving along and this guitar solo came on the radio and it kept building and building and it got more intense to the point that I had to pull over because I couldn't drive because it was all so intense. In the end, I had to call up the radio station and I asked who was that playing that song and that person was you!". I said "Well, I am Walter, what's your name?" And he goes "I am Randy Bachman (giggling)!". I said to him "This is so cool, Man because I am your biggest fan too, since I was in High School". Randy was just the nicest guy I have ever met. He is humble, he is down to earth, he has no star ego whatsoever. We were sitting around, that night and I said to him "Randy, wouldn't be great if we can record something together?" and he said "Oh yeah, we have to do it, we have to record something together, just let me know when". So, when the idea of this album came up, I called him up and said "Hey Randy, about what I asked you about recording together, it would be for this album, would that be ok?" and he went "Yeah, Man, sure!". I can tell you that few months ago, Randy was booked to be the opening act of the Toronto Jazz Festival and he very nicely called me, asking to join him in Toronto as his Special Guest. I went up there, played with him and we did my song Got Nothin' Left live for the very first time plus another couple of tracks. For the encore, which was the most fun, we did All Right Now by Free, followed by Keep Rocking Me Baby by Steve Miller, then we did Hot Legs by Rod Stewart and we ended up with You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC. That night with Randy was some of the most fun I have ever had and you can see that all on YouTube!".
There is no doubt that Trout has left a profound impact not just in the history of contemporary Blues/Rock but also from a personal perspective to many of his fellow artists. Mike Zito is certainly one of those. The artistic and personal friendship between Trout and Zito goes back a long way and to hear the two of them dueting on the song She Listens To The Blackbird Sing was not just a real treat for every music fans but also one of the most memorable moments of the whole album. "I can tell you that song happened really quickly. I was scheduled to go in the studio in Los Angeles with the band, at the time. With my guys, we had something like five days of tracking and then one morning, I got up, had my double espresso and sat down on the couch with an acoustic guitar in my hands. All of a sudden, that song just came out, just like that. I couldn't believe it. I have a little recorder on my phone and I just pressed the Record button and away I was. Musically, the song was all there. Lyrically, I had to do some work on it but that was fine with me. That very same day, I went in the studio and I said to the band "I've got this tune that I wrote this morning and I really would like to record it". We recorded the song maybe just once or twice and once we did so, that was before I decided I was going to give it to Mike. I thought initially that this song was not fit enough for this record, because it occurred to me that there was not enough room for jamming on there but it was rather a 4-minutes type of classic song. In my head, all the songs of the album had to have room for jamming, while this one in particular, it felt like it didn't have any chance of a space at all. When I discussed this issue with the band, we just thought to do this long segment in the middle, so we could create some breathing space for guitar solos. After we did it, I thought to myself that this song had to be given to somebody who is not just only a great guitar player, but a great singer too. I immediately thought of Mike Zito on that, because he is such an amazing singer, together with being a phenomenal guitar player. That song is something completely different from anything else, on this record. After we did the track with the new added middle segment, I called Mike and told him that I had a song that would be awesome for him. He nailed that song really well and I would say that this particular song, it is probably my favorite of the record, I think".
We're All In This Together sees also two generations of the Trout dynasty playing and singing side by side. On the song Do You Still See Me At All, Trout and his eldest son Jon, who has been touring with the guitarist for quite some time now, chisel one of the most intense moments of the record lyrically and musically. We ask the California-based artist whether his son Jon ever come up with any suggestions with arrangements or lyrics, when working on new material. "Yes, he does. As a matter of fact, he and I wrote that song together. I said to Jon that I wanted him on the record but we had to write a song together. One morning, when I got up, Jon said to me "Dad, I've got some lyrics here." I can tell you that the 80 per cent of the lyrics were written by my son and I sort of came up with the music and Jon then came up with the lick that we then played together on that tune. It was a real collaboration between father and son. I thought that he played and sang beautifully, on that song. You know, he tours with me and we do that song live very often, which is always a joy for me. We often do together also the title-track of the album, the one that I recorded with Joe Bonamassa and, I tell you, Jon really tears it up! He is a brilliant musician, very creative. He can write, he can play, he can sing and I am really proud of him. He has missed some chunks of the European Tour last year because he is studying to become a pilot and, as a family, of course we are going to back him on that, because that is Jon's dream".
Walter and Jon Trout - Photo by Greg Logan
Among the great songs presents on Trout's current album, one of the many highlights present on We're All In This Together is, undoubtedly, the song Somebody Goin' Down, where the artist is dueting with Eric Gales, perhaps one of the best songs that Trout has ever written in his long and glorious career, thanks to the fabulous interplay between the guitarist and Gales but also for its cutthroat lyrics. "I can say that I wrote that song after watching the news and seeing a video of a shooting. It was basically the video of a man who was running away from a policeman and the policeman shot him in the back. I was very upset by the video that I saw. The lyrics just came out after I saw that video and that is one song I can say that I had the lyrics before I had the melody. On this album, I had all the melodies for each song before I actually got the lyrics but with Somebody Goin' Down, literally the lyrics came out minutes after I saw that horrific video, therefore I just had to find the right melody that could fit the words I wrote".
Trout has allowed, through the years, fellow artists like Bonamassa, Shepherd and many more to share the stage with him in a very early stage of his fellow artist's careers and surely, it must be very gratifying for him to see how respectful and loyal such artists have been with you all their lives, especially those who took part as Special Guests on We're All In This Together. "It was very moving and emotional for me to have all these guys to come and play on my record because to me, what it showed, was a mutual respect between us all. The fact they were very happy and willing to come and appear on my record, it made me feel like I was accepted in this small club. It's a small club of Blues and Blues/Rock artists who have achieved a certain status in those genres and the fact that they were all happy to take part of this record, it kinda makes me feel that I am right there with them, hence the reason behind the album's title, We're All In This Together".
Just before parting company from this incredibly talented artist, our website cannot leave without asking about the way Trout approach music in the same way that he approaches life, every single day with great intensity and purpose and what is, fundamentally, the secret of the guitarist's artistic longevity. "Boy.... I was talking to my wife Marie about what you just asked just few days ago and I was telling her that I have not really changed what I do, as an artist, from the very start. A lot of artists, generally, they go off to different ways and musical routes, exploring a lot of new things, trying a lot of new things but I feel like I have always got stuck with one thing, in my career, for the last 45 years, which is playing Blues/Rock music or Blues based music to the best of my ability and with ever heart and soul I can put into it. It's hard for me to explain, but I feel very blessed and very lucky that I have had this longevity, the fact that I have been able to do this since 1969 and I have had a pretty awesome time doing it and still going. I am blessed for the fact that people is still listening to my music and they are still coming to my shows, even after all these years. I am very lucky on many ways and I think that people know that, what they are gonna get from me, it is that I am not just gonna give everything I have as a musician, but also trying to give an emotional experience, when they listen to me playing".