“After the heaviness and emotional intensity of creating my last studio album, Battle Scars, I just wanted to go in the studio and have some fun and jam with some friends.” — Walter Trout
After a couple of albums announcing his return to the fray of the music biz from a last-hour liver transplant in the 2015 studio project Battle Scars and then the live follow-up ALIVE in Amsterdam, blues-rock guitarist Walter Trout is back again, this time bringing along a few friends, as in one for each of the 14 tracks on this latest album, appropriately titled We’re All in This Together (Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group). A follow-up to Trout’s 2006 Full Circle album that included tracks recorded with the likes of Jeff Healey, John Mayall, Coco Montoya, Finis Tasby, Joe Bonamassa, Bernard Allison, Junior Watson, Guitar Shorty, and James Harman, among others, We’re All in This Together finds a largely new contingent of mostly guitar-slinging, sometimes harp-wielding, guests lending their instruments and, often, their voices, on a baker’s dozen of original songs all written or co-written by Trout along with a cover of one blues classic.
Both Mayall and Bonamassa return here — the first on the stripped-down, guitar-and-harmonica acoustic number “Blues for Jimmy T.” on which Mayall provides the harp, and the latter on the scorching closing title track, which, unlike most of the other numbers, was captured live with the musicians in the same studio (and on the first take) — as does Trout’s longtime friend (who Walter says “sorta’ discovered me when I moved to L.A. in the ’70s”), blues keyboard great Deacon Jones (Freddie King, John Lee Hooker), who passed away in July, for several songs.
Now five decades into his career, Trout’s made a lot of friends through the years, allowing him to call upon such other seasoned veterans as Sonny Landreth, Edgar Winter, Charlie Musselwhite, Warren Haynes, Joe Louis Walker, and Randy Bachman, in addition to familiar names like Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Mike Zito, Robben Ford, Eric Gales, and harmonica player John Nemeth. The end result is a fine album that’s all-killer and no-filler, with Trout and his guests backed by Trout’s band of Johnny Griparic on bass, Mike Leasure on drums, and Sammy Avila on keyboards.
The album kicks off with the hard-shuffling, Kenny Wayne Shepherd-accompanied “Gonna Hurt Like Hell” that Trout describes as “an uptempo bluesy shuffle, a real stone blues”, but we should tell you that there’s no pain — only pleasure — on this song or anything that follows.
That leads into a rootsy, rocking “Ain’t Goin’ Back” that features Sonny Landreth (who Trout calls “the greatest slide guitarist in the history of the world”) on both slide guitar and vocals.
Charlie Musselwhite provides harmonica and vocals on the gritty, crawling “The Other Side of the Pillow”, a song he and Richard Bear helped Trout write, before Mike Zito joins Trout on guitar and vocals on the light, soaring power ballad “She Listens to the Blackbird Sing”, Trout’s “favorite cut on the record” and one we like a lot too, but our own favorite comes a few songs later in the form of the album’s sole cover: a slow, smoking take on Elmore James’ “The Sky is Crying” that features Warren Haynes on vocals and slide guitar. Yes, this is a cover, and probably one of the more frequently played and recorded ones at that, but this version from Trout and Haynes is surely among the most passionate you’ll have ever heard.
In between those two tracks is the shuffling, hard-nosed instrumental “Mr. Davis” that finds Trout joined by Robben Ford, with Jones on Hammond organ.
The hard-hitting, psychedelic “Somebody Goin’ Down” welcomes Eric Gales on guitar and vocals for a song that “starts off almost Bo Diddley-esque, but then, for the solos, we go into a funk thing, y’know?” before Trout quiets and slows things down with Edgar Winter on “She Steals My Heart Away”, a “ballad, with a hook where we sing harmony together, and a section where we play guitar and saxophone harmony.”
Then, it’s back to a hard-rocking “Crash and Burn” and “Too Much To Carry” featuring Joe Louis Walker and John Nemeth, respectively, with Jones on organ for both, while Randy Bachman checks in for the shuffling rocker — “something that was ’50s rock n’ roll” — “Got Nothin’ Left”, one of a pair of tunes (along with “She Listens to the Blackbird Sing”) to include Trout’s old friend from South Jersey, Skip Edwards, on keys, before the album closes on the Mayall and Bonamassa numbers.
“The new album was originally gonna be called Full Circle Volume 2, but I wanted to make the title a positive statement in this time of madness.”
Trout’s joined by one other guest we haven’t yet mentioned, someone whom Trout described in a 2015 interview with us as “a blues-playing virtuoso” who “has a big future ahead of him; he’s a great player”, and that’s Trout’s oldest son Jon, who co-wrote, sings and plays with Walter on a steaming “Do You Still See Me At All”, with the elder Trout commenting: “Playing music with my son is one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, and I am so grateful I get to do this with him.” Sounding a lot like a younger version of Walter and more mature version of Buddy Guy protégé Quinn Sullivan, Jon certainly is one worth listening for more from!
If there’s one lesson we know Walter learned from his near-death experience a few years back, it was to not take for granted the things we have in life, with We’re All in This Together serving as an impressive, award-worthy celebration of Trout’s friends and family — one that’s just as fulfilling for his fans as it probably was for Trout and the other musicians involved.
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