10 June 2013 (released)
23 May 2013
I have lost count of the number of times I have included the line “mentored by the great Walter Trout” in a review of some new young fireball: Trout is a man who has been generous with his time and with his talent. This album shows part of the reason – he was influenced and mentored by one of the greats himself – Luther Allison.
Of all the peaks in Trout’s trajectory, his abiding memory of the late Chicago bluesman is perhaps the most literal. It’s 1986, and high above Lake Geneva, at the palatial Alpine chalet of late Montreux Jazz Festival Svengali Claude Nobs, lunch is being served. “So we’re up at the top of the Alps,” Trout recalls, “in this big room with John Mayall, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Robert Cray, Otis Rush, and as we’re eating, Dr. John is serenading us on acoustic piano. I was sat there with Luther Allison, and we had a great talk.
“Luther was one of the all-time greats” Trout continues. “It was just an unbelievably potent thing to watch him perform. The energy and commitment that guy had - he was one of a kind. We played together once, at the Jazz Fest that year, and just as we walked offstage, somebody pointed a camera and we hugged and smiled. That photo is on the cover of the CD. When he died in 1997, the idea of the album was planted in my brain."
So we get Walter Trout playing numbers made famous by Luther Allison and the result is – inevitably superb but remarkable in that you begin to get an insight into how a Blues guitarist is made because you are listening to pure Walter Trout but as much as that you are also listening to Allison with all his passion and energy.
It’s a potent mixture and Trout sounds as though he is desperately trying to do justice to Allison’s music.
“At times, I ask myself if I have taken on too much here?” admits Trout. “Like, am I actually capable of doing justice to this? To me, Cherry Red Wine is one of the all-time greatest blues songs ever written, and Luther’s original version is so unbelievably passionate and emotional that even to sing it was a daunting task. If I had my way with this album, it would reignite interest in his work, make people go back and check out the originals.”
I will admit that I hadn’t realised how much of a talent Luther Allison was and the result of listening to this album is that I have started to go back and explore his ‘stuff’ and great it is. But I have been listening to Walter for years and where he takes Luther’s music is even more so.
The callow youth that first heard Luther Allison in ’86 is now a grizzled veteran but he has his own sound and while this album definitely sparks interest in one of the greats it also stands alone as a cracker of a Blues album in its own right.