The last album by master bluesman Walter Trout, Battle Scars, released just last year, was heavily influenced by - in fact more or less told the harrowing story of - his near death experience caused by liver problems back in 2014. That album was a very heavy blues record, being downbeat lyrically and musically, and in the words of the man himself "an intense piece of work, made with tears coming down my face". It was an enthralling piece though.
Happily things are obviously better for him and it shows in his latest album We're All In This Together, with him calling up many of his friends, admirers and a who's who of modern blues music and making something completely joyous sounding as a kind of sequel to the star-studded 2006 album Full Circle. Quality pours out in every track with each guest showing off their skills whilst working beautifully with Trout himself. The strange and impressive thing about the project is that most of the guests (for whom most had tracks specifically written for them by Walter) were miles away elsewhere and sent their parts in via modern technology, but doesn't sound like that. It sounds more like they were all in a room laughing and jamming away whilst doing their parts. One of the lovely things about the man (and his band) is the way that often on tour if someone he admires is in the area he invites them to guest on stage with him, and several of those players are the ones featured here. His face of joy and admiration for others as they shine at his show is brilliant, he almost urges them to take over and show what they can do, so it's no surprise at all that he does the same on this album.
From the new big names on guitar (Joe Bonamassa, Eric Gales) to older ones (John Mayall, Randy Bachman), harmonic specialists (Charlie Musselwhite, John Nemeth) and even some saxophone (Edgar Winter), everyone is allowed to express themselves. Which makes it difficult to choose the best tracks, as they are all so good. There is a level of quality and joy in all of them that on each play a different one stands out as the best or most enjoyable.
Highlights could be the powerful and punchy opener Gonna Hurt Like Hellfeaturing Kenny Wayne Shepherd, the Allman Brothers Band-inspired She Listens To The Blackbird Sing with Mike Zito, who has worked with Devon Allman in the Royal Southern Brotherhood, or the wonderfully soaring guitar solos in The Sky Is Crying with Warren Haynes of ABB and Gov't Mulefame.
But also really good are Crash And Burn, with not only some fine guitar work but excellent vocals from Joe Louis Walker, the harmonica parts (Nemeth) on Too Much To Carry, and the storming ending and title track We're All In This Together featuring Bonamassa. It's the sort of track and performance that any blues fan would happily pay good money to see live on stage, with hopes it turns into an even longer jam.
The most wonderful thing about this album, other than how wonderful it sounds, is that there are really good songs along with superbly crafted performances, and that it has not ended up a disjointed self-indulgent mess, which in other performers hands it could have. There is no overplaying at all, and time flies by listening to this from start to finish. Fantastic stuff.