- The Blues Came Callin'
- Walter Trout
Reviewed by Steve Daniels
This album by blues rocker Walter Trout is a cry from the heart that must be appreciated with pensive awe.
First, look at the photo of Trout on the back of the jewel case. Is that Walter Trout? Formerly a burly bear of a man, he appears startlingly older, wizened, and downcast. Read the liner notes, and if you weren't already aware of it, you will learn that at the time of the album's release in early 2014 Trout was suffering from liver failure and awaiting a liver transplant to save his life. The good news is that he successfully received a transplant and is recuperating with plans to resume touring in 2015.
Nothing clarifies the mind like impending mortality; in this case it has stimulated creativity as well. Of the dozen songs on the CD, ten are composed by Trout, and they present the dominant themes of desperation, dread, defiance, and devotion. Thankfully, lyrics are included in the liner notes, and are worth savoring. The opener, "Wastin' Away," is self-explanatory; "Lookin' in the mirror, I don't know who I see…I'm livin' day to day, and I feel like I'm wastin' away." In "The Bottom of the River," Trout intones: "I noticed so much beauty/As I crawled up on the shore/That day I changed forever/From who I was before." Other titles adumbrate the continuing theme: "Take a Little Time," "The Whale Swallowed Have Swallowed Me," "The Blues Came Callin'," "Hard Time."
Musically, Trout lost no chops during the recording of the album through 2013. This premier string shredder has his own inimitable style, but also on several songs evokes memories of Jimi Hendrix, and on the instrumental "Tight Shoes" there is an undeniable stylistic affinity to past numbers by guitar masters Roy Buchanan and Jimmy Thackery.
Trout's back-up crew is solid, his singing is more than competent, and he even provides some credible harmonica fills. Starting at a high level, the set list really blasts into the ether with "Mayall's Piano Boogie," penned by Trout's old bandleader John Mayall, who tinkles the ivories appealingly. It's followed by
"Born in the City," with some dazzling fretwork, and the album lands a haymaker with the closer, "Nobody Moves Me Like You Do," a long, slow blues love song (to Trout's wife, one may presume) with a heavy emotional punch.
Let's hope that we have Walter Trout for a long time to come, for his sake and ours.
[This review initially appeared in Big City Blues magazine.]