Provogue Records [Release date 01.09.17]
‘We’re All In This Together’ is a star studded album that celebrates Walter Trout’s blues related musical diversity. It also finds him at the peak of his creativity, as he comes up with new ways to accommodate his guests, as his band does him proud.
The two tracks with Mike Zito and Edgar Winter are outstanding departures from Trout’s normal forte. The Trout/Zito collaboration on ‘She Listens To The Blackbird Sing’ has a lovely acoustic intro, subtle harmonies and an Allman Brothers feel from the guitar parts to some Chuck Leavell style piano fills. The beautiful harmony guitar break in the middle of the track illustrates just how good technology can be in capturing spark.
‘She Steals My Heart Away’ is a beguiling sub-Latino sax led duet with Edgar Winter, on which Edgar adds a trademark gritty sax solo to his gnarled vocal refrain. It’s a perfect example of how an album of mostly self penned material pulls Trout into hitherto unexplored musical directions.
If Walter Trout felt elated about the prospect of recording an album of jams after 2 studio albums and a live cut that mainly dealt with his battle back to health, then there must have come a point when he realized the enormity of the project at hand.
He set himself the task of penning a diverse, but musically related batch of songs to provide a suitable showcase for both his own style and those of his guests.
Given the demands of geography and work schedules, this album also falls in line with the common working practice of laying down the basic tracks and then dropping in the guest’s contributions afterwards.
This in itself demands a new approach to recording which supersedes any red button dilemmas and has to deal with making the middle ground – the meeting of the backing track with the dropped in solo – sound both coherent and exciting. After all there is no point of having a roster of guests to die for, if none of them play to their full potential.
And while it may be de rigueur nowadays to have a few special guests on your album, ‘We’re All In This Together’ is a roll call of the top table of rocking blues artists and the challenge is to make both a coherent and exciting album.
Three blues-harp related tracks provide contrast and feel, as Charlie Musselwhite’s soul dripping harp and conversational vocal is the perfect foil for one of Trout’s best vocal performances on ‘The Other Side Of The Pillow’.
Trout’s former mentor John Mayall also opts for harp rather than piano on the acoustic country blues feel of ‘Blues For Jimmy T’, a homage to Trout’s original bass player Jimmy Trapp. It’s a track with real feel that draws us in with a Spartan arrangement. John Nemeth also trades harp licks with Trout’s guitar and adds a soulful retort on an archetypal stop-time Walter rocker called ‘Too Much To Carry’.
The album smoulders, flickers and then burns when the magic happens, usually on second half of a respective track as the ensemble stretches out.
Listen for example, to Warren Haynes’s imperious slide playing and they way both he and Trout seamlessly coalesce on an otherwise obvious cover of ‘The Sky Is Crying’. Then there’s the hotly anticipated meeting with Joe Bonamassa on the title track finale. It’s one of three tracks that was actually cut face to face – The Edgar Winter and Jon Trout tracks are the others – and Walter and Joe step things up with added urgency at the three quarter point as they strain at the leash.
Trout maybe moving into the veteran stage of his career, but when he locks horns with the mighty Randy Bachman on the rocking ‘Got Nothin’ Left’, it’s like a collective flashback to a rock and roll era which thankfully they’ve never forgotten.
Robben Ford brings poise to the jazz related title ‘Mr. Davis’, on a good choice for a guitarist who has spent most of his career crossing over the jazz and blues genres. The contrast of tones and attack gives the track its edge and could only have been bettered by adding some horn stabs.
I guess the ultimate litmus test would be to imagine what this album would sound like without the guests. The truth is there are plenty of ripping tracks here that would sparkle on their own. Trout and his band work hard to provide the perfect backdrop for a generation of rock blues players.
Sound engineer Eric Corne is also crucial element, as he cements the project with a consistency of sonic quality that glues everything together.
This is an honest album on which you can sometimes feel the shift from the tentative to the magical, as on the way Sonny Landreth fills ‘Ain’t Goin’ Back’ with some signature slide guitar, and also the way Eric Gales adds his second starburst solo and a warm vocal on ‘Somebody Goin’ Down’ to provide a soulful foil for Walter’s bristling passion.
It’s also an album that provides contrast and surprise by turns. Listen for example, to the way it moves from the Trout and Winter melodic sensibility to the riff driven intensity of ‘Crash And Burn’, featuring Joe Louis Walker on a sinewy solo and animated vocal.
There’s also an excellent collaboration with Walter’s son Jon Trout, who adds an authoritative vocal on the Latino influenced ‘Do You Still See Me At All’, which evokes Trout senior’s early career ‘Sweet As A Flower.’
‘We’re All In This Together’ is some achievement. It’s an aptly titled album that reflects Trout’s high standing in the blues rock world. It’s more than a follow up to 2006’s ‘Full Circle’ as the material is stronger and Trout’s own performance is so much more focused and disciplined.
His guests act as catalyst for a broad based blues-rock album that flows from beginning to end. It burns with commitment, passion and sparkles with real quality that mirrors the triumph of the whole over the minutiae of its making. ****½