Walter Trout, Ride, Provogue Records
Blues rock at its finest. That’s what you always get with Walter Trout. Add to that his exquisite and emotive guitar soloing and any new album from this guitar maestro is to be looked forward to. Ride, following on from 2020’s Covid-facing Ordinary Madness, does not disappoint.
That would be faint praise, however. Ride sees Trout in the form of his life. No matter that the man is 70; he’s clearly thriving, the ghosts and demons of the past well and truly behind him. A move with his family to Denmark and a new record deal with Mascot/Provogue clearly agrees with him.
The music is joyous – take the solos from the title track, for example – fast and furious as you might expect, but gloriously upbeat. And the lyrics are thoughtful, addressing issues in the wider world as well as facing Trout’s own past and present. He says, “I mean, this album is definitely a musical ride and I certainly tried to cover a lot of ground. But really, life is kind of a rind, too, isn’t it? And I want to live mine to the fullest.”
Walter Trout clearly thinks deeply about the state of the world and his own place in it and the songs on Ride reflect both his despair at what he sees and his hope that things can be better.
He knows the fault lines in his own life – in Follow You Back Home, a slow burner of a number, he sings “I know I lost my way” and “Sometimes I know I can’t escape from the sadness deep within.” In I Worry Too Much, like the bluesmen of old, he’s got a worried mind – he’s worried about the left, he’s worried about the right, he’s worried about how long his new liver is going to last, he’s worried about whether his music is any good.
Recent Trout albums have kept a watchful eye on the state of the world, particularly America. In So Many Sad Goodbyes, he bemoans the state of his home country. “The home of the brave…no, no, no,” he sings followed by “Take what you can get seems to be the only rule.” “I’m shaken by the ugliness, and the sound of people’s cries, Hatred screams so loud, Greed wears a thin disguise,” is an astute summing up of a lot of modern life, fuelled as it is by rampant individualism and increasing political division.
A similar theme runs through High is Low, a slow blues-rocker, featuring some terrific blues harp, which interplays magnificently with Trout’s blistering guitar work.
We’re living in a time
When high is low and low is high
No reason to be kind
Everybody just trying to win.
There are, however, bright notes of hope in the gloom – in the gloriously optimistic feel of the music throughout, but also in songs like Better Days Ahead. For those who have “given up hope and inspiration” and who want to “give up the fight” – there are surely better days ahead and “you’re gonna be alright.” No use “crying and moaning,” sings Trout – “you got to pick yourself up off the ground.”
If all else fails, you can just Leave it All Behind – run away with your baby. This head-shakin’, toe-tapping, rock’n’roll number, throws off the gloom of thinking about the state of the world and goes on a road-trip, “heading out on the highway, don’t matter where we go.”
Waiting for the Dawn’s lyrics are more what you expect in a blues song. It’s an atmospheric, late night number, introduced by Trout’s gut-wrenching solo guitar. His baby’s gone, and he’s waiting for the dawn, it’s hard to carry on – it’s an exquisite blues number.
Melodic, almost wistful, with Trout’s voice at its most tender, the album’s closing song, Destiny, relates his first encounter with his wife, Marie, at a Danish blues festival in 1990. “It was meant to be, you and me.” Trout’s Strat sings beautifully here, without the pyrotechnics he’s more than capable of, just exquisite, laid-back, shimmery and mellow. “After all we’ve been through, my heart still belongs to you.”
This really is one of the best blues albums you’ll hear all year. With Walter Trout’s incredible guitar playing, which can be fast and furious, but is always, always tasteful and never just throws in notes for the sake of it, the delicious harmonica dropped in judiciously throughout, the thoughtful lyrical content, strength of the songs and Trout’s versatile vocals – it’s an album the relish and to return to again and again. Highly recommended.
3. Follow You Back Home
4. So Many Sad Goodbyes
5. High Is Low
6. Waiting For The Dawn
7. Better Days Ahead
8. Fertile Soil
9. I Worry Too Much
10. Leave It All Behind
11. Hey Mama