Trout, Walter: Survivor Blues
Given his past health problems, you could be forgiven for thinking that blues man Walter Trout is referring to himself with the title of his latest album, Survivor Blues. However with all the songs in evidence lesser known blues cuts from days gone by, if he is, then it would fair to suggest that he’s also referencing how well these tracks have stood the test of time.
As ever in the blues-sphere, vintage numbers can still resonate strongly and, no matter your politics, never more so than the Sunnyland Slim number “Be Careful How You Vote”, this chugga-boom a determined warning to check in on those in charge and see if they’re meeting the standards they set for themselves - and you. Trout is in fine form vocally but with the six-string he may never have sounded better, ripping out the heartfelt licks on “Please Love Me” by BB King (could anyone else create a boogie shuffle like this?), leaving it clear that while he may have had to go digging for these long forgotten blues treasures, his heart and soul is thoroughly invested in them.
The more considered “God’s Word”, originally by JB Lenoir, finds keyboard man Skip Edwards eagerly jostling for space against Trout’s fretwork, but there’s room for both and the combination makes for a mighty weapon to wield. Credit too to drummer Michael Leasure and bassist Johnny Griparic, Trout’s band incredibly tight, yet loose and focused, yet free, as they delight with the howl and heart-bleed of “Something Inside Of Me” (Elmore James) and captivate through the Jimmy Dawkins number “Me My Guitar And The Blues”, where the feeling that drips from Trout’s fretboard is potent indeed.
There are all manner of lesser celebrated wonders given new life as you traverse this album’s many peaks, “It Takes Time” (Otis Rush) a romp n’ roll of swirling emotions, where Trout is given a vocal foil in the shape of the magnificent Sugaray Radford; Luther Johnson’s fiery feast of blues given a thorough and convincing workout.
It’s easy to switch off as soon as you discover that yet another blues covers fest has arrived from an old hand of the genre, and in truth, they are often ten-a-penny. Here, however, Walter Trout has changed tack a little and managed to find real potency and authenticity with a set of songs that might just surprise a few and satisfy many. Walter Trout is a not just a blues survivor, he’s an absolute blues thriver.