Walter Trout

Walter Trout
Full Circle

Ruf Records (Europe) RUF 1117

By Art Tipaldi
December 2006

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Since he left John Mayall’s band in 1989, Walter Trout has built up a considerable following and fame. And he has done it the right way, through sobriety and constant touring here and abroad.

Talk about your long, winding road. For years, Trout played to sold out festivals in Europe while building a solid fan base in the U.S. Today that hard, relentless touring has paid off as Trout can pack fans into American clubs and festivals. Now that he has come full circle, Trout has invited many of his musical friends and mentors into the studio to rock the blues like no other disc this year.

Trout’s guest list reads like a who’s who of the blues. His first guest is his old boss, John Mayall. Instead of blowing listener’s ears off, Trout and Mayall slow down “She Takes More Than She Gives” and allow their musical interplay to breathe. This is eight minutes of slow blues heaven. Mayall comes back later in the record to duet on the rock-and-roll-styled “Highway Song.”

When Trout played with Mayall in the late 1980s, he shared the guitar duties with Coco Montoya. That friendship continues stronger today. He and Montoya front Trout’s crack touring band on the earthy Texas-styled ”Who’s Listening In.”

But this record looks back even further. When Trout moved to LA from New Jersey in the 70s, the first person he sat in with was James Harman. Together, he and Trout add to the party with a crackling eight minutes of slow Chicago harp-guitar blues on Harman’s “Busy Man.”

In those same days, after Trout backed Freddie King and John Lee Hooker, he joined Finis Tasby’s band in 1979. Here, Trout, Tasby, and B-3 player Deacon Jones from that band hammer home “Can’t Help Falling Apart,” with Trout handling the harmonica duties, too. Trout follows that tune with Jones and Trout’s seven minutes of B-3 and guitar boil on Erskine Hawkins’ classic instrumental, “After Hours.”

Trout traveled to Toronto to record “Workin’ Overtime” with Jeff Healy, another guitar friend from his past. Who knew that Trout, a guy who can fire off more notes per minute, can also jump the blues with the best.

Trout and Junior Watson turn the clock back by adding upright bass in Watson’s spirited “Slap Happy.” Guitar Shorty, another guitar friend from the past, trades licks with Trout on the blues rocker “Wrapped Around Your Finger.”

But Trout isn’t just looking back. He also has invited some of the best of today’s blues guitarists.

In 2005, Trout sat in on a workshop with label mate Bernard Allison and quipped, “We should do something together.” Later that day, Allison joined Trout on-stage and closed out the festival. Here, they join guitars on Luther Allison’s call to arms, “When Will It Ever Change.”

One of the real surprises of the record is when Eric Sardinas and Trout, two of the most explosive electric guitarists in the blues, unplug and pick acoustic magic on “Firehouse Blues.” And if you want guitar fireworks, check out Trout’s eight-minute duel with today’s young string slinger Joe Bonamassa.

With Trout’s touring band of Sammy Avila on the Hammond, Rick Knapp on bass and Joey Pafumi on drums, augmented by Little Feat’s Ritchie Hayward on drums, there is a solid chemistry on every song.

What I like best about this record is that Trout, a man who gets knocked for playing too many notes too loud, becomes a gracious host and gives every instrument room to be heard. As such, this is not only about his career coming full circle, but it is also about the maturity of one’s musical vision.

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