REVIEW: Walter Trout – Broken

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All of us are broken but no one is beyond repair; some of the most resilient characters among us are built from the broken pieces of victory. This is the philosophy that American blues icon Walter Trout has lived by through seven volatile decades at the heart of the US blues-rock scene. In 2022, in the middle of the global shitshow, his 30th album “Ride” made quite a lasting impression and now, his 31st endeavor pays specific homage to this outlook in life; entitled “Broken,” his new album is due out on March 1st, 2024, via Mascot Label Group‘s blues subsidiary, Provogue Records. Featuring guest appearances from powerhouse blues voice Beth Hart, TWISTED SISTER frontman Dee Snider, and Harmonica virtuoso Will Wilde, this new 12-track offering further cements the fact that Trout is riding a creatively formidable wave and heading into 2024 with a raucous and poignant start. While the album rigorously chronicles the bitter schisms of modern life, the overarching sentiment is that of not succumbing to them, which mirrors Trout‘s career quite spectacularly; however rocky his path, hope and resilience have always lit the way. “I’ve always tried to write positive songs, and this album is not quite that,” says the 72-year-old, adding, “But I always hold on to hope. I think that’s why I wrote this album.” That said, I find it kind of ironic that the selection does open with a track called “Broken” and ends with one titled “Falls Apart,” and between these two bookends lie some of the most raw and bruised songs of Trout‘s career. Yet, like Johnny Winter once said, the blues is all about feeling good about feeling bad.

Opening the album, the title track features guest vocalist Beth Hart; with the song being a bluesy ballad reminiscent of some of Bruce Springsteen‘s 1980s endeavors and Hart‘s signature rasp recalling that of Tina Turner, the song may prove a nice time warp back some 40 years – that is, if you’re old-school like me. Next, the vintage vibe only thickens as the follow-up, “Turn and Walk Away,” rolls out such dusty cowboy-boot vibes, with fired-up harmonica licks and all, that it is hard not to think of the mid-1980s BON JOVI banger, “Wanted Dead or Alive,” albeit the lyrics have a totally different angle. I cannot help but play with the idea that these two tracks could be played one after the other, with Trout‘s song providing some backstory to the narrative of that BON JOVI hit.

The modern cowboy vibes are soon replaced by the slow shuffle of “Courage in the Dark,” which could well fit the soundtrack of some Raymond Chandler film adaptation – preferably one with myriad scenes shot in a dimly lit nocturnal setting. The lyrics could be a Philip Marlowe monologue – or what do you think? “When we can’t see what’s before, and there’s nothing in our sight, all we can do is hope and pray for a single ray of light; and the way to light a candle, y’know, it only takes a spark, and we all need a little courage in the dark.”

The boogie gears up a good notch in the video single, “Bleed.” There’s an interesting background to the song as the spark to write such an uptempo banger was ignited by drummer Michael Leasure‘s inquiry, “Hey, Walter, you played with John Lee Hooker and Canned Heat, this is your 31st album and you’ve never played a boogie. What’s the deal?” Not only did Trout write a banging boogie, but he elevated it to a whole new level by inviting young harmonica virtuoso Will Wilde from England to contribute some fired-up harmonica runs to the song. In Trout‘s words, Wilde “has the soul and power of Paul Butterfield but couples that with blinding virtuoso technique.” Not only is the song a high-octane banger, but the lyrics are infested with poignant one-liners, such as the line, “To be prepared to love, man, you got to prepare to bleed.”

The balance between bangers and bluesy ballads is pretty good on this outing. When it comes to ballads, I am prone to skip them by default – with vintage R&B and blues serving as the only exceptions to the rule. Trout‘s new album has only three tracks that fall into the ballad category – and his tasteful guitar licks save each of these tracks from being tossed into the scrapper. In addition, there are only two tracks that qualify as pure uptempo bangers – mostly, the songs fall into the mid-tempo range, which I reckon to be the most suitable for writing especially poignant guitar lines.

Among these mid-tempo bangers, three songs come off as particularly spirited. First, “Heaven and Hell” turns out to be unexpectedly heavy for a blues song – and I mean heavy as in vintage heavy metal. The chugging riffs could easily have fitted in pretty much any heavy-metal outing released 40 years ago. So, I guess the title is a wink to us aging heavy-metal fans. Next, ”I’ve Had Enough,” featuring Dee Snider, shows that our dear TWISTED SISTER frontman can drop some top-notch blues vocals like nothing to it. Last, “Falls Apart,” with its delicious acoustic guitars (12-stringed, I presume) and vocal layers recall LED ZEPPELIN of all bands! If this isn’t the picture-perfect way to end an album I don’t know what is! So, long story short, with his new album, Walter Trout, a 72-year-old blues-rocker, shows once again that he is not about to mark time and dine out on those past glories but rather has a lot to say both musically and lyrically.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Broken (feat. Beth Hart)
  2. Turn and Walk Away
  3. Courage in the Dark
  4. Bleed (feat. Will Wilde on Harmonica)
  5. Talkin’ to Myself
  6. No Magic (in the Street)
  7. I’ve Had Enough (feat. Dee Snider)
  8. Love of My Life
  9. Breathe
  10. Heaven or Hell
  11. I Wanna Stay
  12. Falls Apart

Lineup

Walter Trout – vocals, guitars

Michael Leasure – drums

(further info not disclosed as of yet)

Label

Provogue Records / Mascot Label Group

Links

https://www.waltertrout.com/

https://www.facebook.com/waltertroutband/

https://www.instagram.com/walter_trout/