Title - 'Battle Scars'
Artist - Walter Trout
Walter Trout is an American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter from New Jersey, who's career actually began on the Jersey coast scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He then decided to relocate to Los Angeles where he became a sideman for Percy Mayfield and Deacon Jones. He also worked in the bands of John Lee Hooker and Joe Tex.
In 1981 he became the guitarist for Canned Heat. This led to an invitation to play in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers where he shared the stage with fellow guitarist Coco Montoya. He left the Bluesbreakers in 1989 and formed the 'Walter Trout Band' which developed a successful following in Europe, especially Scandinavia.
I mention all this backstory because you should know that this brand new album, Battle Scars, released worldwide this month by Mascot Label Group’s Provogue Records, tells that very same story, only musically. It showcases the highs, the lows, the good times, the bad times, and most importantly of all, it paints a picture of the musician that, by just taking one look at his face, has obviously see and done it all.
Trout has been mesmerized guitar fans around the globe with his masterful phrases and unique style for decades now, and this new album, Battle Scars might well be his best yet. It opens with the blistering blues of 'Almost Gone,' which might actually be a nod towards his recent battle with illness and his triumph over it thanks to his liver transplant. 'Omaha Prelude' (which is nothing short of a few seconds worth of ambulance sirens) bleeds seamlessly into the blues stomp of 'Omaha' before we get yet another nod to his past illness on 'Tomorrow Seems So Far Away' ("Sitting here waiting, waiting for the phone to ring, the uncertainty will kill me, before anything").
The George Harrisonesque 'Please Take Me Home' ("I remember when we both cried Couldn't keep it back, couldn't keep it all inside") might come across as a plea to God, but was actually written for his wife, Marie. Next we get both the guitar fest of 'Playin' Hideaway' and the slo-role of 'Haunted By The Night,' which are perfectly paired together here in the middle of the albums pacing. Trout's years as a side man playing guitar behind the likes of John Lee Hooker, Big Mama Thornton, and Joe Tex shine through lusciously on tracks like the relative pop rock of 'Fly Away,' the guitar heavy 'Move On,' and even the harmonica-driven 'My Ship Came In,' but one of my personal favorites on this incredible, truly incredibly rich, meaningful album is the engrossingly aware-of-death, 'Cold, Cold Ground.'
Even with an entire album where each song connects to a specific story from Trout's experience with life and almost death, you honestly always hope it will never end. But, like all good things in life, it does, but not before it comes to a close with both the see-you-on-the-other-side acceptance of the acoustic guitar ballad 'Gonna Live Again,' and then, finally, a tag on 10 second studio blurb, where Trout's last guitar chord has been struck, and so he says to his sound engineer, "Let it ring", and then adds, "OK, Sammy. The song's over now", as that final chord is sonically cut ('Sammy, Sammy.')
Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk