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BD: Thank you, Walter, for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak to me today. I cannot believe the last time we chatted was back in 2016 with the release of Battle Scars. I saw you were playing in Minneapolis all wrapped up against the very cold weather. WT: Yes it was at -330C it was brutal, we didn’t spend much time outside. Now I am in Washington DC and the vibe is cold in town.
BD: Since we spoke in 2016, you have released and been busy touring. What made you decide on an album of a dozen covers?
WT: My last album We Are All In This Together, was with invited musicians. How to follow that up it has been No 1 in Billboards charts. Do I do another where Walter writes twelve songs or do something different? This had been brewing at the back of my head for a There is so much music, which is no longer heard, I thought let’s find music that has been forgotten that is blues/jazz. The untapped music from Charley Patton, the Lomax field recordings there is an amazing wealth of songs that were known but now forgotten. We do not need another version of Messin’ With The Kid, maybe new band but same song, I change the station and here the blues greatest being done to death. Making the album was a labour of love but it was fun doing the research. Exploring the history of the blues from Charlie Patton going forward. I ended up with fifty songs which I whittled down to a dozen it was so much fun it was a pleasure there was no pressure to write a song when not knowing what to write. BD: Yes, bands do seem to focus on a few songs. I once went to a festival where nearly every band seemed to play Going Down! WT: Yes I played that as part of Supersonic Blues Machine it was fun. But actually, the best versions have already been done by two greats, Freddie King & Jeff Beck.
BD: The title Survivor Blues does that reflect your survival after your liver transplant or the survival of the Blues?
WT: Yes, it is a double entendre favoured in the world of blues. I am a survivor as are Skip Edwards on keys has had a triple by-pass. Bassist Johnny Griparic and drummer Michael Leasure are both seriously in recovery from Drugs/alcohol and Johnny nearly didn’t make it. Marie came up with the title she said to me you are all survivors and the songs are survivors as they have been forgotten faded into oblivion with the album reviving them. Blues Survivors is the title thanks to my wife Marie.
BD: When reviewing Survivors Blue, one track which I loved left me flummoxed. What are the origins of Red Sun?
WT: I found the song browsing YouTube following one of the suggested videos, Floyd Lee, Red Sun he has had couple records early 2000’s, He is a modern guy he hasn’t posted on FaceBook for seven years. He has played in New York in little bars I found him as a recommendation on YouTube when I was listening to Freddie King. Other videos show and he popped up one day the lyrics were like they were written by Leonard Cohen. I had to organize the song it was drums and guitar it is a bit Captain Beefheart. The song was written by young Canadian Joel Poluck who I am not sure if still alive no active posting on Facebook. I was so drawn to the song I loved the song so had to be on the album of survivors.
BD: The album celebrates your time with John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, you choose was Nature’s Disappearing. The lyrics are even more relevant today than when originally released in 1970. Does your experience of playing with John Mayall the Godfather of British Blues still resonant in the music you play today?
WT: John is so often overlooked as one of the greatest songwriters of the blues. So many incredible numbers, Nature’s Disappearing lyrics is a snapshot of what we are doing to the world as the likes of Donald Trump subisdising Coal despite the damage to the world we are moving back to the 18th century. Forgetting about the environment as the head of the EPA is a lobbyist for the coal industry. Nature’s Disappearing is about oil drilling and is more relevant now that when the song was written over 50 years ago. The inspiration came when John was in a waiting room of his Dr’s office. He read a magazine while waiting and there was an article about pollution. He wrote the lyrics on the back of an envelope what he had just read about pollution. What he wrote he put to music. Mayall was a surrogate father to me I sent this version to him and he replied I just listened over and over, you have done a fantastic job thank you. He did say that in my old age my guitar playing is more economical and he approved. I was a Bluesbreaker for five-years I learnt so much about playing the blues, being part of a band and going on the road both mentally and physically. I was the most fit during the five years with John travelling with the band and playing my music. With my own band there is more pressure, no standing in the background playing my guitar, travelling first class I was young when in the Bluesbreakers and loving it. John Mayall supported and nurtured me.
BD: You are back working hard on the tour circuit in the USA and Europe. When we caught up with you at your Robin II show last year was a highlight of my gig calendar. I know you are back in June playing O2 Forum, London. Joining you is Jonny Lang and Kris Barras a night of Heavy Blues rock? Tell our readers what we can expect from a night with three guitarists and their interpretation of the blues-rock?
WT: I will be over with my touring band and give the best we have, with Bassist Johnny Griparic, drummer Michael Leasure and on keys Teddy ZigZag who will be a new for many people coming to the shows. Rockin The Blues is going to be fun we will playing, lots of Survivor Blues, All In It Together with a hour long high energy emotional shows.