Walter Trout Battle Scars

By Lady K
January 2016

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Walter Trout

Battle Scars

Mascot Music Production, 2015

In Lady K’s humble opinion, Battle Scars is Walter Trout’s very best album – ever.

In addition to Walter’s rocking guitar blues, the lyrics on each track represent different stages of his nearly life-ending battle with liver disease. It was a long struggle that Walter (and his family and band) started fighting, publicly, about mid-2013.

Walter’s wife, Marie, began blogging regularly around that time, bringing his millions of fans into the arena with them. On the West Coast, the list of people waiting for liver donors was long, with a very lengthy wait forecast. Harmonica man Curtis Salgado (who’d gone through the same wait several years earlier) advised the Trouts that his own luck changed when he relocated to Nebraska and found his donor there.

Walter and Marie left their two sons and family friends guarding the home-front (their oldest son, already out of school, was making guitar music in Europe) and headed for Omaha, where the wait began.

Marie’s blogs kept us up-to-date on an almost daily basis while they waited, and Walter continued to fail. As 2014 progressed, he became unable to make music, barely even able to speak: it was considered a good day when he was able to get out of bed and sit in a chair for a few minutes.

While fans around the world kept track with Marie’s updates, Walter’s health deteriorated and optimism was hard to maintain. By late May he was seriously near death - and then a donor was found. On Memorial Day weekend in 2014, Walter received a donated liver, and the months-long recovery began. There were ups and many downs and it was a long, long battle, but Walter is back, with a vengeance, and he has written an album full of incredibly intimate songs that tell the amazingly emotional story of his battle.

The concept, along with the music – are both phenomenal.

The band is Walter Trout (guitars, harps and vocals); Johnny Griparic (bass); Michael Leasure (drums, shaker, tambourine, background vocals); Sammy Avila (Hammond); Eric Corne (shaker, background vocals); and Gia Ciambotti (background vocals). All tracks were written by Walter Trout, with assistance from Marie Trout on Track 11.

There’s a lot of music on the 12 tracks of Battle Scars – vocals on every track, but also lengthy instrumental sections, the best of all that Walter has to give. “Almost Gone”, mid-tempo, with a BIG sound, and amazing guitar (as usual), is about starting to realize that there might not be any options left: “Like a toy that has been broken, laying there in pieces on the ground/A good woman’s love is the only thing that keeps me hanging on/ But I can see it in her eyes, we both know that I am almost gone.”

One of Lady K’s frequent pet peeves is the use of sirens as background or intros on tracks – scares the hell out of her when she’s driving, while she checks all side and rear-view mirrors, looking for the cop or the ambulance. In “Omaha Prelude”/“Omaha”, there are sirens - the ambulance sirens, getting Walter to Omaha. The track is heavy with bass and drums: “Guess I made it through another night, fightin’ hard to survive/Just tryin’ to stay alive, down in Omaha.” The up-tempo “Tomorrow Seems So Far Away” is about Walter’s realization that someone else has to die in order for him to have a chance to live: “Minute by minute, I’m waitin’ on a call, for somebody to save me by givin’ it all./Sittin’ here waitin’, waitin’ for the phone to ring.”

The slow blues in “Please Take Me Home” projects a plaintive plea, recounting the love between Marie and Walter, and his wanting to give up the battle, go home, and let it all end. “You’d lay with me and you would hold me close to you, and I would say to you, I’d say: Please take me home, I just wanna go home.” It’s a haunting song, as is “Playin’ Hideway’, an up-tempo rocker, which is a Walter-to-Walter conversation; sort of seeing himself struggling, wondering if the struggle is worth it.

“Haunted By the Night” is mid-tempo, with some seriously eerie guitar, and Walter focuses again on the up and down moods that prevailed during his long wait. Waiting for a transplant; seemingly endless lonely nights, waiting for assistance from the staff (imagined - or not - long waits), those inevitable times when he felt so sorry for himself. “Push the button – please hear me call/But ain’t nobody comin’ – they’re just laughin’ in the hall/And this IV is beepin’ – it’s hurtin’ my head, and spirits are creepin’ all around my bed.”

Other tracks are “Fly Away”, the up-tempo tunes “Move On” and “My Ship Came In”, and the slow “Cold, Cold Ground”.

This album is so very important, but before this review becomes a book, Lady K is just going to say, ‘buy Battle Scars and listen for yourself. You’ll hear more about how Walter Trout ended this saga - just him and his guitar on “Gonna Live Again: “Lately I’ve been wonderin’ why you’ve kept me here for so long, with all my indiscretions and all the people that I have done wrong/And now it seems to me I must reach out and that I must grab hold of what is there before me as I watch it beautifully unfold.”

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