Provogue Records [Release date 28.08.20]
With a biography entitled ‘Rescued From Reality’ and his latest album ‘Ordinary Madness’, Walter Trout is clearly a rock-blues artist with plenty on his mind.
In fact, this has been the case for most of his career, but it took a brush with mortality to bring his lyrical depth to greater public attention. He’s frequently made a conceptual connection through his album titles and this album does exactly the same.
‘Ordinary Madness’ is superbly crafted rock-blues which explores the human condition through subjective eyes and lyrical honesty.
It’s lyrical introspective album forged by the musical ebullience of his road band, who play exquisitely throughout.
And if his PR makes a great play about using the former Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger’s studio, the sumptuous layered sound, sonic clarity and evocative guitar tones do indeed suggest the perfect triumvirate of a creative musician, his long-time producer Eric Corne, and an inspired band.
Trout revels in all the possibilities his working environment gives him and rises to the occasion with one of his very best albums.
From the opening Jon Trout generated Beatles ‘No.9’ style electro collage of the title track, through a breathless segue into the single ‘Wanna Dance’, all rounded off by the defiant autobiographical pile driver ‘Boomer OK’, Trout unflinchingly explores his own psyche, while adding some of the best studio playing of his career.
His restrained vocals and clarity of diction perfectly levers us into a syrupy blues groove, on which he builds an achingly toned solo rounded off by a distant Doors style keyboard arpeggio.
If the title track is about the human condition, he gets much more personal on ‘The Sun Is Going Down’. The rumination about old age mixes Beatles style ‘Sun King’ harmonies, a deep blues-harp and an eerie guitar line with Teddy ‘Zig Zag’ Andreadis’s judicious organ, before a kick ass tempo change and a sculpted guitar solo fills a very interesting arrangement.
The key to the album’s accessibility is an equilibrium born of rock-blues intensity and contrasting melodic ballads, such as the gospel tinged ‘My Foolish Pride’ and the outstanding ‘Heartland’, surely one of the best ballads of his career.
The latter has a lovely lightness of touch and a gentle acoustic wash to match. He adds a Neil Young inspired vocal, but rocks out with a searing second solo full of emotion in a cry of hope meets aspiration that mirrors his lyrical intent. “And she knows there must be more to life than the life’s she’s leading in the heartland.”
‘All Out Of Tears’ features the same sort of falsetto he used on the ‘Go The Distance’ track ‘Bugle Billy’. Here he lets the song breathe and percolate before another searing solo that perfectly evokes his lyrical meaning.
‘Heaven In Your Eyes’ is an un-reconstructed mid-tempo love letter with lashing of melodic guitar and fits the conceptual continuity of the album.
‘Final Curtain Call’ is a glance back over his shoulder at his previous employer John Mayall, on a motif driven rocker with an Eastern tone and brusque blues harp.
He applies the same sort of bluster to ‘Make It Right’ on a hard driving funky stomp with a shade more edge to his guitar tone, over Teddy’s feather light organ.
The Johnny Griparic/Michael Leasure rhythm section lock together drum tight as Trout’s booming solo glides above the densely layered track, before a volume swell breakdown that can only be him.
There’s an integral pull to the album and an overall sense of flow that glues together the lyrical depth, inspired playing and an array of vocal timbres.
On the David Gilmour styled ‘Up Above My Sky’ drummer Michael Leasure evokes Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, while Trout applies a close-to-the-mic vocal like a painter might apply subtle pressure to a brush stroke.
The underlying dynamic tension is finally resolved with a tremulous solo into which he pours everything.
And having counter balanced introspection with his natural vivacity, he finally explodes on the aptly titled cathartic joy de vivre that is ‘OK Boomer’.
From the count-in and exclamatory: “listen here”, the band rocks out imperiously, as Trout deliver his generational rock and roll mission statement.
“I still love my rock a roll, The Beatles and The Stones, but I can’t bend no more, you know it hurts me in my bones, I like my music loud, I’m jam electric and I’m proud, hear me when I say, I’m a boomer and I’m OK.”
‘Ordinary Madness’ is a triumph of creativity, vim and vigor. The future of rock-blues is in inspired hands. *****
Review by Pete Feenstra
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 26 July.. In the first hour David pays tribute to the blues/rock guitarist Peter Green.
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