Friday, August 19, 2022

Walter Trout - Ride

Tom-toms roll, a harmonica moans, and a tense, reined-in guitar riff arrives, beefed up by B3 organ.  The opening track ‘Ghosts’ has barely started, and already Walter Trout and his gang have conjured up an ominous, storm-clouds-approaching mood.  Add in an intriguing lyric about the power of memory, delivered with an air of anxiety by old Walt, and a splintering, pained guitar solo, and you’ve got a pretty lip-smacking appetiser.
It's scarcely a surprise that Trout can lay down the gauntlet with an opener this good.  Ride is his thirtieth solo album, fer cryin’ out loud, and his previous effort Ordinary Madness showed him in
Walter Trout having a ball on a photo-shoot
Pic by Alex Solca
top form.  And having come out of the blocks strong, Trout still manages to kick things up a notch or three, with ‘Ride’ itself.  Yep, there are tongue-in-cheek harp blasts (can you play harmonica with your tongue in your cheek?) mimicking a train whistle, and an impatiently clacking railroad rhythm.  But any sense of cliché is overwhelmed by the rollicking delivery, equal parts Allmans and Bob Seger.  The music is bright and engaging, but the evocative lyric about the train that rattled past his childhood home is darker, reflecting on the promise of escape it offered from a violent step-father.  There’s a cracking Trout solo too, the arrangement slipping and sliding neatly around it.
That Bob Seger echo is a handy reference point.  Just as there were more sides to Seger’s songwriting than his rock’n’roll core, so Trout isn’t restricted to the blues-rocking guitar honcho persona that many would attach to him.  Sure, ‘Waiting For the Dawn’ may be a classic slow blues, but the sense of night fears and isolation goes beyond his “lover being gone”, and Trout’s playing is similarly imaginative, bordering on jazzy at times with its precision, changes of pace, and pure tone.  And ‘Follow You  Back Home’ is a slowie of a different hue, a shimmering ballad with a lovely melody, carried more by Teddy Andreadis’ piano than any Trout guitar work, until he embarks on some subtle soloing.
‘The Fertile Soil’ takes a different tack altogether, with a West Coast vibe, a sweeter vocal embellished with harmonies, plus gentler harp from the wonderfully nicknamed ‘Zig Zag’ Andreadis to go with his tinkling piano and swirls of organ, and Trout’s acoustic guitar.  All in all it makes for an interesting diversion from the blues mainstream.  And the closing ‘Destiny’ is a melting love song recalling Walter’s first encounter with wife Marie, with lyrical guitar lines over chocolate box keys.
But there’s plenty good rockin’ tonight too, in different flavours.  There’s the strutting rhythm of ‘High Is Low’, with Trout singing in rasping, agitated fashion about “living in a time when forgiveness hurts our pride”, matched by a squealing, urgent solo.  There’s the brooding, gutsy ‘Better Days Ahead’, spattered with discordant, near-wailing guitar work to go with an even more angsty vocal.  There’s ‘Hey Mama’, opening with tense, ringing guitar chords, before easing off over more rolling toms as it creates a sense of dynamics to go with another meditation on Trout’s troubled childhood.  It’s a simple but potent song, that gets its hooks into you and won’t let go.  And by way of outright rockin’n’rollin’ there’s the straight-up, horn-infused Chuck Berry-ism of ‘Leave It All Behind’, doubling up on the fun quotient with some rapped out lyrics and a good-time guitar solo.
Trout delivers the goods on guitar with a deal of panache at times.  But it’s also striking that his distinctive voice is by no means one-dimensional, as he flexes it to match the needs of particular songs.  Oh yeah, and the dovetailing contribution of ivory-rippler and harp-tootler Andreadis isn’t to be sniffed at either.  All said and done, Ride demonstrates that at 70 years old, Walter Trout’s musical mojo is still strong, baby.
 is released by Provogue Records on 19 August.

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