by: Willie Witten
It would seem all but impossible for an artist to produce an album that sounds original and inspired on their 29th attempt, but that is exactly what Walter Trout achieves on Ordinary Madness. Recorded at Robbie Krieger’s studio, the eleven tracks share common themes of time, mortality, and love, all while managing to sound vastly different from one another. Honest love songs follow crushingly hard rockers, which in turn lead into western-tinged blues tales. There are nearly as many types of songs as tracks on the set.
The unusual, synthesized introduction to “Ordinary Madness” sets the stage for a jazz infused blues number about mental health and the madness that pervades our society. Typically great guitar work, laid over Teddy “Zig Zag” Andreadis’s Rhodes piano, highlights the musical half of the tune, but the real takeaway is the lyrical content. With clever turns of phrase and personal admissions, Trout composes stanzas that stand on their own, apart from the music.
“Wanna Dance” shifts the tone into hard-charging rock, bolstered by crunchy guitar stabs and gritty vocals, while the softer, “My Foolish Pride,” and the western-tinged tale, “Heartland,” round out a diverse opening quartet. On “Heartland,” Trout peers through the eyes of a young woman searching for more, and reflects on the difficult decision that he and countless others have made in leaving home to live their fullest lives.
In a more direct fashion, Ordinary Madness explores the themes of time and its effects—aging and mortality. Most of the selections on the second half of the album deal with time, even if only tangentially. Trout expertly expresses feelings of sadness and loss through soaring guitar work on “All Out of Tears,” a song co-written with Teeny Tucker about her late son. On “Final Curtain Call”—arguably the best track of the set among several candidates—the upbeat tempo and riff-based groove offer a counterpoint to Trout’s musings on his own mortality. On “The Sun Is Going Down,” he addresses the topic head on, singing “And time has no mercy, it just don’t seem to care.” Representative of the album’s range as a whole, the piece starts with melodic vocalizations, moves into a reverb-soaked slow-burn, and ends as a chunky uptempo instrumental jam featuring more than a couple of blistering guitar runs. Multifaceted in its own way, “OK Boomer” can be read as a tongue-in-cheek critique, a lighthearted generational anthem, or just a great rock and roll track to sing along to.
The album is consistently great cover to cover. Perhaps not mentioned enough is the sheer quality of the music. As expected, the band is stellar, and a couple of contributions by additional musicians fill in any imagined holes in the mix. Simply put, if listeners are looking for weaknesses, they will have a hard time finding them. More likely, they will discover songs and segments worth listening to again and again from different approaches: once for the music, once for the theme, and again for moments of instrumental bliss. For an album that broaches some deeply personal subjects, Ordinary Madness succeeds in being universally relatable, not to mention extremely enjoyable. It is one of Trout’s best entries in his extensive catalog.
The Review: 9.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Ordinary Madness – Wanna Dance – Heartland – Final Curtain Call – The Sun Is Going Down
The Big Hit
– Final Curtain Call