• Battle Scars


    Battle Scars
    Walter Trout
    Label: Provogue
    Release Date: October 23, 2015
    Review Date: October 18, 2015

    Battle Scars is Trout’s 18th album released by the Netherlands-based Provogue label and his 42nd overall, counting his pre-solo-career recordings as a member of the historic groups: Canned Heat and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. 

    Trout fell headlong in love with the blues in 1965 when his brother brought the first album by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band into his family's New Jersey home, and Trout heard the twin-guitar magic of Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, combined with Butterfield's gut-deep harmonica-and-vocal performances. In his music-loving home, Walter was raised to the sounds of records by Ray Charles, Hank Williams, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, John Coltrane, Bo Diddley and many other musical giants.  Trout’s practical schooling started in earnest when he arrived in Los Angeles in 1973 and got gigs backing Hooker, Big Mama Thornton, Finis Tasby, Pee Wee Crayton, Lowell Fulsom, Percy Mayfield and Joe Tex. In 1981 he joined the remaining original members of Canned Heat. But the real turning point was his five-year tenure with British blues giant Mayall. Trout became part of the Bluesbreakers’ lineage of great guitarists along with Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor.

    Trout founded his own band in 1989 and cut his debut album, Life In the Jungle, rapidly becoming a star in Europe. His first U.S. release, 1998's critically heralded Walter Trout, also made him a fixture of the American blues-rock scene.

    With bristling energy, unflagging virtuosity and lyrics that cut to the core of human hope and willpower, Walter Trout’s new album, Battle Scars, chronicles his horrific battle with liver failure. But the 12-song set, which will be released worldwide by Mascot Label Group’s Provogue Records on October 23 also captures the international guitar hero, on a new high — playing and singing at the peak of his abilities, infusing even his darkest numbers with creative joy that sweeps like a beacon.  "I’m thrilled about this album, about my life and about my music,” says Trout, who returned to the stage in June at the prestigious Lead Belly Festival in London’s Royal Albert Hall. “I feel that I’m reborn as a songwriter, a singer, a guitarist and a human being. I have a new chance at being the best musician and the best man that I can be. And I’m incredibly happy and grateful.”

    Contrast that to early 2014, when Trout was lying in a hospital bed without the strength to move or speak, unable to recognize his own children, as he observed  his body waste away. But on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014, Trout underwent liver transplant surgery and the slow process of healing began. “At first I wasn’t  strong enough to play a single note on the guitar, but as I regained my strength,  the music came back to me. Now when I pick up the guitar, it is liberating, joyful, and limitless. I feel like I’m 17 again.”

    Initially, Trout hoped to capture his renewal and positivity in the songs, “but,” says Trout,  “they were coming out cliché and I wanted to write something deeper.” After Marie, Trout’s wife and manager,  suggested that he revisit the difficult experiences of his illness, the songs began pouring out. The first was “Omaha,” which resonates with smashing chords and vibrating low strings: a solo packed with pealing midnight howls. The lyrics tell a tale of a man haunted by death.  "I was in UCLA for a month, and later at the Nebraska Medical Center for five months in the liver ward — first waiting for the transplant, and then recovering from the surgery,” Trout recounts. “There were days when  somebody in the ward died while waiting. I’d hear families out in the hall crying and doctors trying to comfort them. And I knew there was a good chance that I’d be the next one to go. For ‘Omaha.’ I wanted to capture how that felt and sounded.”

    The opening song “Almost Gone” is equally potent. As the fingerpicked introduction intones, Trout lays his cards on the table: “Now I get the feeling/Something’s going wrong/Can’t help but feelin’/I won’t last too long.”  The fatalism is balanced by the music — from the exquisite roar of Trout’s harmonica that follows those words to the ebullient, soaring six-string that gives the tune a tsunami of uplift. “Almost Gone” captures the strength I got from my wife, urging me to go on fighting when I was in pain, and on the verge of death,” says Trout. “I looked up into her eyes, and she gave me the power to carry on. That experience is reflected in my playing on the song.”  Another key track is “Gonna Live Again,” which gets its organic grounding from Trout’s acoustic guitar and the gentle quiver of emotion in his voice. “That’s me asking God, ‘Why me?’ When so many people died waiting, why did I survive? I’ve been given a chance to try again — a chance to be a better husband, a better father, and a better man.”

    Over the decades Trout has accumulated numerous honors. He is a two-time winner of the “Overseas Artist of the Year” title at the British Blues Awards, and is a three-time Blues Music Awards nominee. Trout’s six-string prowess earned the number six slot in BBC Radio 1’s “Top 20 Guitarist” listener’s poll, tying with Queen’s Brian May. 

    Just prior to his illness, Provogue records was poised for a major “Year of the Trout” marketing campaign and worldwide tour celebrating his 25 years as a solo artist. The label released Trout’s then newly recorded  album, When the Blues Came Calling, and reissued his catalog on 180-gram vinyl. Additionally, Provogue published his  autobiography penned with British music journalist, Henry Yates: Rescued From Reality: The Life and Times of Walter Trout.  “Unfortunately, that tour didn’t happen,” Trout says. “Instead I had to cancel an entire year of touring. That’s what the song on Battle Scars, ‘My Ship Came In’ is about: My ship came in and I missed it! I’d waited all my life for a record label to get behind me to that extent, and then that plan fell apart.”

    Trout is now moving triumphantly forward in his 50th year as a guitarist. He is in the midst of a global tour with his band: keyboardist Sammy Avila, drummer Michael Leasure, and new bassist Johnny Griparic, who joined in time to record Battle Scars in Los Angeles’ Kingsize Soundlabs with Trout’s longtime producer Eric Corne.  “I don’t take this lightly,” Trout declares. “Marie says that all of the people who donated to our fundraiser for my medical expenses” — which generated more than $240,000 – “bought stock in me and my liver. When I play for them now, I have a responsibility to give back and offer the very best that I have.

  • Common Ground

    commongroundcoverCommon Ground
    Artist: Walter Trout
    Label: Mascot
    Reviewed: March, 2011

    Common Ground is 19th solo project (if you also count his work as The Walter Trout Band, Walter Trout and the Radicals and Walter Trout and the Free Radicals) by blues great, Walter Trout, and is a must have CD for the blues enthusiast. The former Canned Heat and John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers guitarist serves up some of the best new blues that can be had today with this great disc.

    Every song on Common Ground were excellently written by Trout and delivered with a performance and passion one might expect from someone who has just discovered the blues. It’s that love and passion for his blues craft that endears Walter’s fans to him and will ensure that he will have a loyal following for the rest of his career.

    I have several personal favorites from this disc. Open Book is a woeful tune that cries out for a second chance in love. The guitar work tugs at the listeners emotions on several levels. It’s worthy of a few hits on the repeat button to be sure. Another favorite is the Allman Brother-esque, Her Other Man. A subject that is a staple of the blues, adultery, this particular tune is a crowd pleasure during Trout’s shows. It’s also an ear pleaser in the privacy of your own personal listening environment, wherever it might be.

    By far the most moving and compelling tune is the title cut, Common Ground. Built on a beautiful, melodic guitar foundation, the words of the thought provoking lyrics send shivers down my spine every time I listen to it. The song is a cry to God for peace, acceptance and harmony in the world that can come from only Him. If my copy of this album had been on vinyl, I would have already worn the grooves off of the part of the platter that this song was cut on, it’s that good.

    Song For My Guitar could easily be a song about a long relationship with a lover. On second thought, that’s exactly what this song is but the focus of the affection is on Trout’s guitar. While you non-musicians my laugh, I happen to know lots of musicians who feel just this way about their guitars. You guitar players will want this CD just for this song. I guarantee it.

    If Common Ground was a machine gun magazine loaded with bullets, each cut is an armor piercing round and not a dud or blank in the clip. Every song is worth several hits on the replay button. Download this CD today. After giving it a few listens, I can just about assure you that you’ll be saving your milk money to buy Trout’s entire body of work. He’s that good.

  • Find A Way To Care


    Find A Way To Care
    John Mayall
    Label: Forty Below Records
    Release Date: September 4, 2015
    Review Date: August 30, 2015


    “Find a Way to Care” is the new CD from legendary blues musician John Mayall – something like his 62nd, in fact. Produced by Mayall (who also did the graphic design and artwork for the album) and Forty Below Record’s Eric Corne, “Find a Way to Care” was recorded at the House of Blues Studio in Encino, California, in a head spinning three days.  It’s also some of the best, new blues you’lll hear this year and is all performed by the legendary British blues man and his band.

    In addition to Mayall (vocals, piano, Hammond organ, Wurlitzer, clavinet, guitar and harmonica), featured on the sessions are Rocky Athas (lead and rhythm guitar), Greg Rzab (bass) and Jay Davenport (drums), who collectively are now into their seventh year as John’s band. The group is also augmented by a horn section on several tracks.  

    The even-dozen tracks on “Find a Way to Care” include a scintillating group of new songs and savvy covers of “Mother in Law Blues” (Don Robey),  “The River’s Invitation” (Percy Mayfield), “I Feel So Bad”(Lightnin’ Hopkins), “Long Distance Call” (Muddy Waters), “I Want All My Money Back” (Lee Baker) and Drifting Blues” (Charles Brown). 

    About his choice of cover songs on the new album, Mayall says, “Every time I make an album, I always feel I owe it to my fans to come up with fresh and varied interpretations of the blues. With this in mind, I chose an assemblage of songs that includes perhaps some slightly lesser-known bluesmen, and that all had either different beats or special instrumental treatments. I also found three songs that would be further enhanced by the addition of horns.”

    Added to the mix are four original songs (including the title cut) that always feature Mayall’s take on the current human condition, as well as universal truths. 

    “As always, I draw from my own experiences and thoughts about things in my life so that from album to album I create on ongoing musical diary of my life,” he explains. “The blues never lets me down!”

    And “Find A Way To Care” won’t let blues – and Mayall – fans down. Every new and cover cut is worth the price of the album so you know you can’t go wrong in purchasing this CD. 


  • John Mayall - Knoxville, TN - March 2016

    John Mayall

    Opening Act: Bill Carter

    Bijou Theatre – Knoxville, Tennessee

    March 10, 2016


    I had the privilege of chatting with the legendary blues man, John Mayall, back in September (here). I finished my chat with Mayall ardently desiring to be able to catch him in concert. 

    My wish came true Thursday night at the beautiful Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville. My fulfilled dream was further enhanced by getting to meet the blues legend in person. No, it wasn’t backstage or on the tour bus. The man was manning his own merch table and selling his work. 

    Yep. Seriously.

    The evening began with singer/songwriter extraordinaire, Bill Carter. You won’t find anyone who can write deeper, more thought provoking songs that this Austin, Texas, treasure. To be able to watch him perform is a rare, musical treat to be savored and savor I did.

    When Mayall hit the stage afterwards, he did so while fist-pumping to a near sellout, enthusiastic crowd. Hitting the keyboards, harmonica, and guitar, playing gems from his song catalog that spans over fifty years. Some in the crowd remembered the earliest tunes as if they were first released yesterday. Others were quite aware of the songs off of his latest CD, “Find A Way To Care”. Collectively, everyone was thrilled from beginning to end – including the encore.

    It seems that 2016 is the year that we are losing many musical icons. Many of them are passing at an age far young than 82 year old John Mayall. I encourage you to catch artists like Mr. Mayall while you still can. They won’t be around forever and they will energize you with the power and spirit that they personify. 

    Oh, and after that show? John and the band were in the lobby, selling merchandise and kibitzing with fans. 

    That, my friends, is real class.

  • John Mayall Discusses "Find A Way To Care"

    Posted September, 2015

    JohnMayallbyMaureenClark001Cropped2If all I wrote was, “John Mayall is a blues institution,” I would’ve said plenty and it would start a conversation that would last hours. The legendary blues man is, of course, the founder of the UK’s John Mayall and the Blues Breakers. That band, founded in 1960’s, had a stellar group of musicians who went on to become blues and rock greats in their own right.  Names like Eric Clapton, Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, John McVie, Walter Trout, Harvey Mandel, Coco Montoya and many others. 

    Even more astonishing is that the eighty-one year old icon is still recording and touring around the world. In fact, he has just released his sixty-second album entitled, “Find A Way To Care”. 

    To discuss that album, I contacted Mr. Mayall at his California home. Cordial and still quite British, I started out by asking him if this disc was, in fact, his sixty-second album, to which he said:

    “Yes, it does sound about right. The thing is, those are all the original albums and, then, there are countless others which are compilations and repackagings and things like that. Those ones I can never keep track of but the important thing is to stick with the originals.”

    When I asked how “Find A Way To Care” was different to record from the other sixty-one albums, with his very proper EverythingKnoxvilleLogoEditedBritish accent he replied quite philosophically. 

    “It’s all the passage of time and experience, you know? If you’re talking about stuff from the sixties, obviously, there was a lot of immaturity in some respect and there was also an innocence about it and strength to it, in that respect. I think the{mprestriction ids="*"} passage of time, the more you play and the more years that add up, I guess you just keep on going.”

    With recording technology and techniques changing drastically since he first recorded, I asked him if he recorded straight to digital or did he do like some other rockers like Joe Walsh or Rick Derringer are doing and record in analog first before transferring the recording into digital.

    JohnMayallbyJeffFasano002Photo by Jeff Fasano“I have no idea. I’m a firm believer in keeping up to date with all the latest technology. That’s the way I’ve always been.”

    Albums can often be a long and laborious process. Sometimes, it can take months to get an album in the can. When I asked Mayall how long his latest offering took to record, his answer was a head-spinner.

    “Well, the band came in for three days. Two of them live in Chicago and one of them lives in Fort Worth. So, they came in for three days and I did some overdubs on the forth day. The following week, we did the mixing.” 

    When I expressed my amazement over how fast the album was completed, the blues icon said: 

    “Yeah, I mean, we’ve been together for five years and everything’s first take. We know what we’re doing. I’ve always believed that the first or second take of anything is where you get the freshness and the spirit captured.

    “We all know each other. We can mind read and all that. It’s really spectacular. Ha! Ha!”

    I love Mayall’s treatment of Muddy Waters’ “Long Distance Call” and told him as much.  Knowing that musicians don’t like to pick a favorite song because it’s like asking a parent to pick their favorite kid, I asked John if there is a track off of this album that he would point to as a calling card to people to entice them to buy it.

    “It’s almost an impossibility – it all depends on what you’re mood is. ‘Drifting’ (referring to ‘Drifting Blues’) is straight-forward blues. But, then, on the other hand, ‘Ain’t No Guarantees’ is a good stomping one so I just depends what your mood is.”

    The title cut is one of four tunes that Mayall wrote on this CD. It comes across as both reflective and instructive. When askedJohnMayallbyMaureenClark001Photo by Maureen Clark about the story behind the song, he confessed:

    “I really don’t know how to explain the song. When I’m writing a song, I want to make it as interesting as possible. Also, it should reflect the mood and the story that you’re telling. It came together very quickly once you know what the story is. I’m a great believer in positivity.”

    I have twice interviewed one of John’s former band mates, Walter Trout, who recently has had an amazing recovery from a liver transplant. Mayall had this to say about Walter Trout:

    “Walter’s a pretty amazing character. First of all, he’s survived death. That’s a bit of a remarkable thing, you know. His operation was successful. He’s back strong and he’s back in business, again. I saw him fairly recently. I sat in with him. It was just like old times. As a composer and musician, he’s always coming up with new stuff. I haven’t heard his new album, yet. It’s yet to be released. It’s somewhat biographical and about all that he’s been through. He’s a very creative person with whatever he does.”

    As for what’s next for the blues legend, he says:

    “That’s pretty much it. It’s quite a big chunk of the year that we’ve got coming up on the road. The album is just out. The dates are already filling up for next year, which is great. There’s also going to be a volume two of the live stuff from 1967 with Peter Green, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood. So, volume two of that will be coming out in the new year. Apart from that, that’s all I’ve got going at the moment. I think it’s quite enough. More than most people.”

    As our chat was wrapping up, I asked John Mayall, “When you go to that great blues gig in the sky, how do you want to be remembered and what do you hope your legacy will be?” He answered without hesitation or timidity:

    “Well, I hope that people appreciate all the music that I’ve done because I’m quite confident that I don’t sound like anyone else. There’s a wealth of stuff in the music of mine for people to dig into. I think there’s quite enough going on there, already. If I die tomorrow, there’s quite a lot for people to deal with.”{/mprestriction}

  • John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers– Live in 1967- Volume Two

    johnmayallsbluesbreakerslive in 1967volume2coverJohn Mayall’s Bluesbreakers– Live in 1967- Volume Two
    John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers
    Label: Forty Below Records
    Release Date: May 6, 2016

    Prompted by the critical and commercial success of the 2015 release of previously unavailable live recordings from newly-elected Blues Hall of Fame inductee John Mayall and his classic 1967 Bluesbreakers band, Forty Below Records recently released a second batch of recordings. Titled John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers– Live in 1967- Volume Two, the new CD continues the archival blues path blazed in Volume One that captures heralded performances of one of the best of the Bluesbreakers band lineups, featuring iconic musicians John Mayall (vocals, keyboards, harmonica), Peter Green (lead guitar), John McVie (bass) and Mick Fleetwood (drums). Distributed by Sony/RED, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Live in 1967 – Volume Two showcases a legendary group of players who while only together a short three months, created a lasting legacy, made an immense impact on music and led to the formation of one of the most acclaimed groups of all-time when Green, McVie and Fleetwood left to form Fleetwood Mac.

    Produced by John Mayall (who also did the cover package photography, artwork and design) and Forty Below’s Eric Corne from one channel reel-to-reel original tapes recorded by Tom Huissen, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers– Live in 1967- Volume Two contains performances recorded in the Spring of 1967 at such well-known London venues as Bromley, The Marquee Club, The Ram Jam Club and Klook’s Kleek.

    “I am so happy that the remaining usable tracks from these London club dates have been released as a follow-up to the well-received Volume One,” says John Mayall about the new album. “Peter Green as before is on fire throughout and this set includes a great instrumental based on his composition, ‘Greeny.’ There are a couple of Otis Rush tracks that were included on the first volume, but they are from different venues and totally different. I couldn’t possibly let these slide. Also, there is another version of T-Bone Walker’s 'Stormy Monday’ that is sung by Ronnie Jones, who would frequently sit in at our gigs. John McVie gets in a great bass solo on ‘Chicago Line’ and Mick Fleetwood drives the whole set with his unique and powerful drumming. With these new tracks added to the collection, it pretty much features all the material we had in our repertoire at that time and I’m very glad that you can now enjoy this great piece of rock/blues history.”

    Volume Two showcases three John Mayall originals including the opening track, all-time blues classic “Tears in My Eyes;” “Chicago Line;” and “Please Don’t Tell,” a great example of the power blues sound The Bluesbreakers were revered for around the world. These historical performances were captured for all time and largely unheard for almost fifty years until John Mayall recently obtained the tapes and began restoring them with the technical assistance of Eric Corne. Speaking about the tapes, Corne says, “While the source recording was very rough and the final result is certainly not hi-fidelity, it does succeed in allowing us to hear how spectacular these performances are.”

    The Bluesbreakers live sets at the time of these performances included songs that had originally appeared on the first two band studio recordings with Eric Clapton and Peter Green, respectively, holding down the guitar chair in the group, as well as some that would soon be recorded for the third LP, Crusade, by which time Green, McVie and Fleetwood had left to start Fleetwood Mac and the new guitar player was a young, then-unknown Mick Taylor, who would later go on to further fame and glory as a member of The Rolling Stones.

    Of the new album’s 13 tracks, three are songs that first appeared on Volume One, although these new tracks included here were recorded on different nights and ably demonstrate how improvisational the band could be infusing a different feel and tone from night-to-night. Of particular interest is the inclusion of the version of “Stormy Monday,” which features special guest vocalist Ronnie Jones, a former American serviceman and original member of the first incarnation of Blues Incorporated, a contemporary band to the Bluesbreakers, which included Alexis Korner, Cyril Davies, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker during its lifetime. Another highlight is the Peter Green instrumental, “Greeny,” which perfectly states the case for why he is still revered as one of the best-ever guitarists.

  • Walter Trout (2012)

    Posted April, 2012

    waltertroutA year ago last month, after discovering Walter Trout via his Common Ground CD, I caught his show at the beautiful and historic Granada Theater.  I proclaimed in that review that his work earned a spot on my list of artists that I would want with me should I be stranded on a desert island. I also wanted to interview the blues great. 

    That position was further solidified early last month when I received a review copy of Trout’s latest CD, Blues for the Modern Daze.  I won’t go into my thoughts about that CD since I have that covered in the Boomerocity review here.  But, as I told a friend of mine after my first pass at listening to Daze, if I could play guitar, I would likely focus on the blues and, if I could play the blues any way I wanted, it would be just like Walter Trout does on that CD.

    My year long desire to interview Trout was finally achieved recently when I called him at his California home shortly after his return from his European tour.  If he suffered from jetlag, I wouldn’t know it by how he came across on the phone.  He was immediately affable, engaging and caring, asking about if there was any impact to my family by the tornadoes that had hit the Dallas area earlier that week (thankfully, there wasn’t).

    After discussing the horrible destruction that hit the Dallas area, we began discussing Blues for the Modern Daze. With almost 40 years as a musician and over 30 years recording records, Daze is Trout’s 21st solo album in addition to albums he worked on with Canned Heat and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.  With such a large body of work that he can be proud of, I asked Trout what makes Daze different from his other CDs.

    “Well, it is really an attempt at just doing a blues album, which I’ve never done before. If you listen to something like Common Ground, just between that song and Open Book – at the time I was thinking to myself almost as a singer/songwriter and I was really trying to explore songwriting and experiment with it and try different things. On this one, I just sort of went back to where I started, which was with the blues – with old rock and roll. Very simple stuff. It was also an attempt at trying to capture in the studio the energy that my band puts out when we play live.”

    When I shared with Walter my comment that I shared in the second paragraph of this piece, enthusiastically replied, “Well, thanks! There’s a lot of ways of doing the blues, you know? This was my attempt at really exploring that genre.  It’s my version of what the blues is. It’s not everybody’s version. Some people will like it, some people won’t but it’s a definite, honest attempt on my part to present to the public what the blues is to me.”

    I don’t put Trout on the same level as a Bible-thumpin’ preacher. However, on Common Ground, I sensed a heightened level of spirituality or spiritual awareness.  I sensed the same kind of feel being carried through on Daze by the way he shared observations and life-lessons.  I asked if my perceptions were correct.

    “Yeah, that’s a very correct thing and it’s been that way for me for years and years. Maybe on the song Common Ground I might have been a little more blatant with it. It’s turned up at various points in my career. There was a song called Down To You which is on one of my earlier records, Go the Distance, and that’s a pretty blatant kind of Christian song.

    “I’m not a guy who’s out Bible thumpin’, either. It is important to me in my own life and I don’t want to turn people off. I don’t want to come off as the guy who’s knockin’ on your door and throwin’ it in your face because I think that turns people off. But I do like to, once in a while, put it out there that this is who I am and it’s important to me. Also, for instance, on the new CD (quoting lyrics from Brother’s Keeper), ‘I get sick of people out there who use religion and use Christianity to advance their own political agendas’. That’s what Brother’s Keeper is about. 

    “For somebody to say, ‘Yeah, I’m a Christian but if there’s somebody dying on the street and they don’t have health care insurance, let ‘em die’, no, you’re not a Christian at that point. I’m sorry. You’re not. You’re hiding behind that label to advance your own agenda. That’s okay. That’s your agenda but don’t tell me that that has anything to do with the teachings of Jesus because you need to go back and re-read your Bible at that point.  It’s just like the song (Brother’s Keeper) said, ‘Jesus said to feed the hungry, Jesus said to help the poor, so many of these so-called Christians don’t believe in that no more’. That’s about as to the point as I could get.

    “When I did that tune, my co-producer, Eric Corne, he said, ‘You know, you’re probably going to get into a lot of trouble for that song’.  I said, ‘I don’t care. I gotta write what I feel, here. I’m not gonna write an album about tulips and puppy dogs!”

    With such a hard-hitting indictment against the church world, what does Walter hope the response would be from his listeners?

    “Geez, I don’t know what the desired response would be.  Maybe it can get them to think a little bit. I’ll tell you that back when the decision was made that I would do a blues record – like, we’re in the process of putting this together with the record label and they’re like, ‘Well, we could do this or we could do that – we want to do something a little different. You could do an album of covers.’ ‘Nah, I don’t feel like doin’ an album of covers.’ ‘How about an acoustic album?’  ‘There’s no way I feel like doin’ an acoustic album. I like loud guitar.’ ‘You could do Full Circle II and get guests.’ “Yeah, how ‘bout we just do a blues album?’ and they’re, like, ‘Yeah, that’s great!’

    “Then, a day later, as I thought about it, I said to ‘em, ‘You know, everybody that does a ‘blues album’, you’re gonna have version #683 of Got My Mojo Workin’ and version #845 of Hey, Hey, the Blues is Alright. I don’t wanna do that. It’s been done. When I turn on blues radio and here’s another artist doing Sweep My Broom, it’s like there’s fifteen songs that get done over and over and over and over. 

    “I said, ‘How ‘bout we do a blues album but I’m gonna write the whole thing and I’m gonna write about what I feel, what I believe, my observations on life and I’m gonna make it a little bit of a concept about my feelings about the world we live right now’ and they said, ‘sure’.

    “I did a lot of writing on here, for instance, about what I see as the corporate takeover of the American political system and that’s how I see it. I love this country dearly and I’m sadden to my core to think that you can go out and vote this year and it don’t mean anything because, as the song say, ‘Politicians bought and sold but they belong to Exxon and Goldman Sachs’. I really think this country has to get back to being a democracy and not The Corporate States of America.

    “So, I wrote about a lot of things – not just spiritual. I wrote a lot about my feelings about what’s going on in the world. ‘You get yours, I’ll get mine, just make sure you toe the line.’ I don’t know if it’ll change anybody’s ideas but I certainly got a lot off my chest!”

    We chatted a little longer about the political climate and problems in the U.S. While we were solving the world’s problems, Walter said something very interesting and compelling - something that I’ve mulled over and over ever since he said them to me.

    “I’m married to a girl from Denmark.  She’s still a Danish citizen and my kids are Danish citizens. In Denmark, it is highly illegal for any corporation or business to donate money to political candidates because they see that as a conflict of interest. Any corporation that gives a political candidate a million bucks and that guy gets in office, he owes that corporation something. Really, who he owes something to would be the people of the country, not the corporations.

    “I see a different way of doing it over there. It’s a completely different approach. They don’t have lobbyists. To my Danish wife, the idea of a lobbyist just outrages her to her core. It doesn’t compute at all because she was raised in a country where they can’t contribute, they can’t come in and push for laws to get passed that are going to help them make more profits at the expense of the people of the country. So, I’ve seen a different system and I think that this gets more and more and more out of hand.

    “If you listen to Puppet Master and Money Rules the World, it’s right there.  We can agree on one thing here: We can say that you might be a right wing conservative and I might be a complete left wing wacko, but we can certainly agree that the money in politics has gotta go!  To me, whether you’re a fan of Rick Santorum or a fan of Joseph Stalin, whoever, you can see that it’s the money in our politics that is corrupting the system so much that the people are ending up getting the shaft here with the corporations making more money than they’ve ever made in history. To me, if you’ve got a problem with bail-outs, you should also have a problem with giving Exxon $60 billion a year in subsidies. Same thing! 

    “I don’t know, man, something’s gotta change here!  As long as they’re (politicians) getting millions and millions of dollars and it’s based on influxes of money from corporate entities, none of them are going to do what they say because as soon as they get in, they owe. They owe those people big time! That’s where the problem arises I think.”

    Trout accentuated those comments by sharing with me his love for our country and how that was fostered in his upbringing.

    “I love this country. I was raised in the Philadelphia area and my mother took me to Independence Hall and we saw the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were written. Then, one summer, she took me to all the Civil War battlefields. The next summer we went to all the Revolutionary War battlefields. She raised me to be patriotic and to be thankful and happy to live where I live. I get despondent with it now.”

    Over Trout’s 30-plus year career, he’s recorded a lot of great music, played with an impressive array of people and has played all sorts of well known venues.  With such an impressive resume, I wondered if there’s a project he hasn’t yet done that he wants to and who he would like to play with that he hasn’t.

    “As far as a project that I want to do, it’s hard for me to even think about that now because I still haven’t gotten this one released, you know? Right now, I’m sorta like – as my wife would make the analogy – a lady who’s in her ninth month of pregnancy and is waitin’ to pop the kid out. The kid’s fully developed He’s in there. He just don’t want to come out. Right now, I’ve got a little more than two more weeks before this thing is released and I start getting some feedback on it from fans and people like you. I’m anxious to see how it’s received, you know what I mean?

    “My wife always says that, when I do these CDs, it’s kind of like giving birth. I kind of disappear into my garage for three weeks and come out with a CD written. I do it in one, long three week period. She says, ‘Okay, it’s time for you to do a CD’ and I say, ‘Okay, I’ll see you in three weeks’ and I go sit in the garage and write a CD.  So, as far as the next project, I really don’t know the answer to that. I want to get this one out there and see how it does.”

    In answering the question as to who he would like to play with, it’s not at all surprising to hear who that is.

    “One time in my life I’d like to get up on stage with the Stones and stand there next to Keith Richards and play some rhythm guitar. That would be it. That would be about as much fun as I can imagine having!  I’ve done a bunch of playing in the past with Mick Taylor but I mean the band – the full band. To turn around and there’s Charlie Watts would just kill me. I’d just be like, ‘Wow! This is awesome!’

    Regardless of one’s profession, it’s human nature to get tired or bored of what some might think is doing the same thing over and over again.  If you’ve ever had the privilege of watching Trout perform, you’ll see that is clearly not the case with him.  It’s obvious that he still has a blast entertaining crowds and performing his craft.  I asked him what is the biggest thrill or satisfaction that he still derives from his work and how does he keep it fresh and exciting for himself.

    “I can just tell you, for instance, I just finished a tour of Europe. I got home three days ago. I’ll play a venue – say, The Paradiso in Amsterdam – and I’ll walk out on stage. It’s sold out. There’s, what, 1,800 people in there? It’s packed to the rafters. I walk on the stage and they freak out and they send me up waves of love! I play to them and I look them in the eye and I get right down in their face.

    “If I’m playin’ a slow blues tune like Brother’s Keeper, there’s people in the front row and they’re visibly weeping. I realize that what I’m doing means something in their lives. It brings them joy. It brings them – not just entertainment – it means something. It matters to them and I feel that I’m the luckiest guy on the face of the earth.

    “It’s not about huge commercial success here. I’m not the guy who’s out scraping and clawing to climb up to the next level and play the bigger venues. I just don’t care about that. Some of the best nights of my life happen in little bars.”

    As Trout continues to answer my question, he becomes genuinely emotional.

    “That’s what keeps it goin’ for me is to realize that I was blessed with a gift that I can do something that actually has some meaning for people. And, man, I don’t take it for granted. I used to when I was all messed up. I was a heroin addict for three years – back in the Jessie Ed days. That’s why I say that they’re a blur. But I don’t take it for granted anymore and I haven’t for years. I want to get as much of it as I can get.

    “People will go, ‘you’re sixty-one, are you going to retire?’ Retire?  Retiring is what people who hate what they do! ‘I hate what I do and I want to stop doing it and go fishin’!’  No! I want to keep doin’ this until I can’t do it anymore. John Lee Hooker, who I played with, he was 85 and he played a gig two nights before he died. I take inspiration from those guys. I just did a couple of shows with B.B. King. He’s 86 and he still loves going out there. So, it’s easy to keep it fresh when, every night, you have the potential of really connecting with some people on a deeper level than just playing them some happy little ditty but connecting and seeing that it’s affecting them down into their heart and soul.”

    With economic times being as dicey as they are, does Walter see a correlation between these hard times and the public’s receptiveness of the blues?

    “Not particularly. I’ve been at it a long time and people enjoyed it as much during the boom years as they are during the bust years. I think it’s more about the common existential difficulties that everybody has in their life that goes beyond financial problems. Granted, some of those tunes will affect people more when they’re struggling and having a rough time but everybody has heartache – whether they’re a homeless guy on the street or they’re Bill Gates, they’re going to experience heartache. But the homeless guy on the street has a lot more to deal with just to get through a day. But I don’t notice that it chances the audiences any. It’s an interesting question.”

    For relatively new fans like me – as well as for those of you who have followed Trout for quite a while - I asked him what fans can expect from the upcoming tour.

    “We’ll be doing, pretty much, the new record. We’ll still do some old stuff and we’ll still do some spontaneous jammin’ but we’ll concentrate on the new record. I also wrote that record with the thought of doing it live, too.  There’s not a whole lot of production and stuff on there that we can’t come out and do those tunes. You’ll see the same band that’s on the record that I’ll have with me and we’ll be doin’ those tunes. We do change the tunes around a little bit. There’s a version of Brother’s Keeper that I just put on the fan page that we did in Cologne. It’s different than the record. I changed the key and I changed the melody. It’s on the Facebook fan page so you can see it there. I changed it a little bit but it’s the same tune.”

    Let’s say that you and I were chatting and you had never heard of Walter Trout.  Let’s also say that I could play only one song off of Blues for the Modern Daze as an example of why you should buy the record.  Even though I’d make you listen to the whole CD, for the sake of this hypothetical example, I would play either Lonely or Brother’s Keeper. I asked Walter which song off of Daze he would point people to.

    “Well, I can tell you that when I’m driving around and I’ve got that CD in my car, I probably keep going back to Lonely. I think the words to that song are very unique and very timely. I think there are people more of my generation who will understand what I’m trying to get at with that song.  I do go back to that song myself and listen to it a lot. I think it came out well.

    “I wrote that at a Starbucks on a napkin as a poem. That’s why I say, ‘I’m waitin’ for my coffee and I’m standin’ in a crowd’. I was standin’ there and there was people screamin’ in their phones and lookin’ at computers, nobody’s talking to each other. So I grabbed this napkin as I stood there and I wrote the whole thing lyrically and stuck it in my pocket. When it was time to write the CD, there it was and I put it to music.

    “At first, I read them and I thought, ‘Nah, these lyrics are a little too – nah, it’s not gonna lend themselves to this’ then I thought, ‘Screw it!’  That was, I think, the first song I did when I sat down to write this one. I found that napkin. I had stuck it in a folder of lyrics, opened it up, found that one, and went, ‘Well, if you want to write about today’s world, well, there you go!”

    Speaking to the songs commentary about how technology as isolated us from one another, Walter said, “It’s really great. With the internet you have all the information in the history of the world at your finger tips, right?  That’s a beautiful thing. But I don’t see that it’s increasing our understanding as human beings at all. All it does is give people more ways - if you’re prone to be an intolerant, prejudiced person of a certain ilk - you can find others just like you and have a little community where it would’ve been harder before. So there’s a plus and a minus. I’ve always had this thought that, with every advance we make as a society we give something up, too.

    “Have you ever seen the movie, Inherit the Wind? There’s a line in there that Spencer Tracy delivers about progress of technology. That happened in the twenties, right? So he does this line – I saw it as a kid and it stuck with me and I’ve remembered it – and he says, ‘You can have airplanes but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline so be prepared for that change’.  That’s it - with every advancement something falls by the wayside and that’s really what that song is about. I don’t think the internet’s a bad thing. I don’t technology is a bad thing. It’s a great thing! For instance, I have friends who, if they want to invite their next door neighbor over for dinner, they send them an e-mail. I’m, like, ‘Just go knock on the door, look them in the eye and say, ‘You wanna come over?’”

    Speaking of technology, I was curious what Walter has playing on his iPod these days so I asked him.

    “It’s funny, I really don’t listen to much that is like what I do because I do at least 200 shows a year and I’ve done 21 albums in 23 years. I need to get away from it so when I’m on tour and I’m sittin’ in the van and I’ve got my iPod goin’, I’m probably listening to anything from Joni Mitchell to Miles Davis to Duke Ellington to Crosby, Stills and Nash to James Taylor or Kate Bush or something like that. I kinda stay away from blues with loud guitars and stuff because, in order to do it at the level I do it at, I have to immerse myself in it and dive in completely. Then, when I’m done, I wanna hear something completely different. So, like I said, I’ll listen to jazz. I’m a big fan of James Taylor and Joni Mitchell and Ella Fitzgerald and Placido Domingo and lots of different stuff. Nothing like what I do.”

    My final pair of technologically related questions had to do with guitars: how many does he own and is there what he considers a “Holy Grail” of guitars?

    “I don’t know. Maybe about 20. I’m not collector. I’m not into the whole vintage thing. Matter of fact, the whole vintage thing ticks me off ‘cause they’ve taken those guitars out of the hands of players and put ‘em in the hands of guys who put ‘em in a safe. I’ve got a few Strats, got an old Tele – I own probably 20 guitars but I end up just using a couple of them.

    And the Holy Grail of guitars?

    “Oh, yeah, the old one that’s on the cover of all my CDs. I’ve owned that one – next year it’ll be 40 years and when I bought it, it was white.  We actually have it done as a mosaic in stone in the floor of our house. We have an exact duplicate of it in stone. When you walk in my house, that’s the first thing you see in the floor. So, that one for me is the Holy Grail. Actually, I use that on Lonely. That song is on my old guitar and after did that song with it – we started with that song and after I did it, the guitar broke electronically. It needs to be taken apart and re-soldered. The rest of the album is my touring guitar. I don’t take that old one on tour anymore. It’s too much stress. People go, ‘Well, why don’t you take it on tours?’ when I’m in Europe, and I go, ‘Because, if somebody stole it, I would exercise my Second Amendment rights’ and they look at me like, ‘What?’”

    It’s an American thing.  They wouldn’t understand.

    As we were wrapping up our chat, I asked Walter how he wished to be remembered when he goes to that great blues gig in the sky.

    “I would hope they look back and go, ‘He was a dedicated artist who tried to say something with his art. Whether he succeeded or not, that is up to interpretation. That’s a guy who devoted his life to being an artist and was serious about it and, also, helped a lot of young people get going.’  I have a lot of young guitar players that I mentor and that means a lot to me.  Of course, I would want my wife and my kids to look back and say, ‘He was a good husband and a good father’. That’s incredibly important and probably the most important – three kids!  But as far as how the world would see me, a guy who just gave everything he could have to try to be the best artist he could be.”

    Clearly, many of us are already saying just that.

  • Walter Trout Discusses His Health And New CD

    April, 2015

    trout walter croppedPhoto by Jeff KatzIf you’ve been into the blues for very long at all, no doubt your attention has been directed to the tremendous work of blues great, Walter Trout. Whether you heard him during his days with Canned Heat or during his tenure with John Mayall and the Blues Breakers or during his lengthy solo career that continues today, you would be left being blown away by this man’s monster talent.

    I first interviewed Trout three years ago this month (here).  Having watched him perform and then later interviewing him, I developed a hard core fondness for the man and his music. 

    Like the rest of his fans around the world, I was saddened to hear last year that he was in need of a very expensive liver transplant. Those legions of fans contributed the badly need funds for that transplant. Trout’s lovely and devoted wife, Marie, kept fans apprised of his progress and kept him informed of the continuous outpouring of love and support from family, friends and fans.

    Walter had this to say about his bride:

    “We’re coming up on twenty-five years (being married). When I met my wife, I talked to her for probably forty minutes. I said to her, ‘You’re going to move to America. We’re going to get married. We’re going to have children and get old together’. I’d only known her for forty minutes. She, of course, told me I was crazy, but here we are twenty-five years later, madly in love, with three beautiful kids. She really kept me alive. She’s the one who convinced me to fight when I was packing it in. It was very difficult and incredibly painful. She kept me going and fought like lioness for me. The doctors performed miracles on me, but the one who really kept me alive and saved my life was my wife.”

    As Walter began to heal and gain strength, he started to make plans to hit the road again. As the plans were solidified, the opportunity to chat with Trout again presented itself and I grabbed it.

    Our chat began with Walter sharing how he feels after such a harrowing health experience.

    “I’m glad to be here. It’s been a hell of a year and a half. I’m feeling great. I feel reborn. I have plenty of energy, and I’m putting weight back on. 

    “The last couple tours I’d been getting these incredible cramps in my hands, especially my left hand and forearm. I tried everything- physical therapy, acupuncture, and magnesium. I was going out on stage not knowing if I’d make it through a song. And I got to the point I couldn’t bend strings. If I tried to bend the string, my whole hand cramped. I did the last tour without bending a string. How do you play blues without bending the string? I managed to pull it off by playing a bunch of fast stuff. I had to totally re-think how I play. It turned out it was from my liver, which I didn’t know at the time. Now I’m playing again and don’t get any cramps. I’m strong. The band has been rehearsing, and we’re kicking ass. I feel great and very, very excited about the future.

    “I’m going to make another album at the end of May. It’s going really good. I’m a wonder of modern medicine.”

    As for what has been his biggest realization or lesson through this whole ordeal, Trout said, “My whole perspective on life has completely changed. I see beauty where I didn’t see it before. I don’t take anything for granted. I wake up in the morning, open my eyes, and just start laughing. I go, ‘Wow, I have another day here.’ It’s amazing. Little things that used to bug me just don’t bother me anymore. I don’t care. 

    “I see things very differently, and I’m very happy and blessed to have some more time. I see the majesty of being alive, and I didn’t really see that before. A lot of things I took for granted, and I don’t anymore. It’s a whole different way of viewing a lot of things. My wife, my kids, and my music mean more to me than they ever have. I didn’t think that was possible, but it’s a whole new perspective.”

    I asked the blues great if there has been any change in his playing style as a result of his transplant.

    “I think I can actually put more meaning into every note. I rehearsed with the band last week out in my garage. I played a long solo, and I just closed my eyes. Even though it was rehearsal, I just got really into it. At the end, I had a breakdown. I was weeping halfway through the song. I put more into it, and I feel it more. I realize how lucky I am to get to do that, because I really didn’t think I’d get to again. 

    “I went for at least a year where I was getting the cramps, and I thought it was over. When I was in the hospital and was so Walter Trout 01 by Jeff KatzeditedPhoto by Jeff Katzsick, I had lost 120 pounds. My oldest son came to the hospital in Nebraska, and he brought me a Stratocaster. I couldn’t play it. I couldn’t get a note to come out- I was too weak. I could not press the string to the fret. I didn’t have the strength. I thought, ‘That’s it. I’m done. Even if I live through this, I’ll never be able to do that again.’ 

    “I’d lay there in the hospital, and on my phone, I’d watch YouTube videos of myself. I couldn’t relate to it: ‘Did I do that? Who is that guy? Is that me? Did I actually do that?’ So I thought it was over. I’m actually playing better now than I have in a long, long time. It’s joyous to get to do that.”

    When “The Blues Came Calling” was released, I reviewed it, and we all thought Walter would be hitting the road but he didn’t. I asked him if his need for a transplant was known while he was working on the album and what was his frame of mind at the time.

    “I was really sick when I did that album. I got sick when I started putting it together. That April before I’d gotten really sick, we’d gone in the studio and done a couple basic tracks. I had a couple licks in my head, and I just got some guys together and said, ‘Let’s go in the studio, play some stuff, and see what happens’. 

    “We did a few basic tracks, and then right after that, in May, I got incredibly sick. I swelled up, and my body filled up with fluid. I looked like I was in my ninth month of pregnancy. It was insane. I’d go in the hospital, and they’d put a drain in my abdomen. At one point, they drained out twenty-five pounds of liquid. I would have that done every once in awhile. Twenty-five pounds of fluid I was carrying around- in my legs, in my feet. It was called ascites, a result of having liver disease. Some people get it, some people don’t. Ascites means you swell up with this fluid, and I had it really bad. But that’s when I wrote and recorded the album.

    “I couldn’t walk. I would drive up to L.A. and stumble into the studio. I had a cane, and at one point, I even had a walker. I would go in, play and sing for maybe an hour and a half or two hours. Then I’d have to come home. If you listen to the lyrics, there’s a lot on there that’s pretty dark. ‘Blues came calling/All night long it told me/You’ll never be the man you used to be.’ And that was the frame of mind I was in. ‘Bottom of the River’… same thing. That’s a metaphor for what I was going through. It was pretty tough. I didn’t know if it would kinda be my last will and testament. I had a feeling it would. 

    “If you listen to the opening track, ‘Wasting away/Looking in the mirror/I don’t know who I see/I take another look/It don’t look like me’, I wrote that after I’d lost 120 pounds. One day I got up and stumbled into the bathroom with my cane or my walker. I looked in the mirror, and I was a skeleton. I came out and wrote those lyrics. It was pretty tough, you know? Plus, I did all the leads on there with the incredible cramps in my hands. I just went in and would play until I couldn’t play anymore. I was good to play a couple solos, and then it was like, ‘I gotta go home’. My hands just closed up. I can’t move, can’t straighten my fingers out. My forearm feels like somebody stabbing it with a knife. It was hard album to make.”

    When I asked Walter, aside from the health issues, what made this album different for him compared to his previous albums, he said, “I have a technique for making an album. For instance, let’s go back to “Blues for the Modern Days.” I was not sick. I kinda go through a little period of writer’s block. It’s like, ‘Ok, I’m going to be in the studio in three months.’.  I’m going through this right now, as a matter of fact, because I’m going to be in the studio in May. I start saying, ‘I gotta write this thing.’ I go through some writer’s block, then I have this revelation. It’s kinda weird, but it always happens. 

    “One day, I hear the voice of my dear, departed, beloved mother. She says, ‘Hey Walter, my son. You wanted to be a musician. That’s all you ever wanted to be. You are a musician, so just quit freaking out. Quit belly-achin’, and just make some music. All you gotta do is make music- that’s what you do. So do it.’ I hear that, and all of a sudden, the flood gates open. On “Blues for the Modern Days,” I wrote the whole thing in two weeks. There were times I wrote four songs in a day.

    “But I have to wait for that to happen. I’m waiting for it to happen right now. I’ve got a bunch of musical ideas, but I’m just kinda floundering around… to make a fish joke.

    “First, I rehearse for, say, two or three days with the band. I show them the songs, then we go in the studio. We take about four days. We do the basic tracks: bass, drums, keyboards. The rest of the time I’m in there playing and singing. We maybe put an acoustic guitar on, and I’ll sing the song. We might have some background singers come in. I’ll bring in, like, Deacon Jones, who is the keyboardist I play with in John Lee Hooker’s band. The great B3 player… I always have him play on my records, ‘cause he’s my mentor. He brought me up through the ranks and got me in John Lee Hooker’s band. I always have him come in and play on a song or two. Normally, within about ten days, the thing is done. Then it’s time to mix it.

    “This last album took me a year, because I could only do an hour and a half to two hours a day. There were many, many days I couldn’t record. We would have to, maybe, do one day every two weeks. The rest of the time, I was too sick. I’d get up and call Eric, my producer, and say, ‘I feel ok today. Can we get the studio later?’ He’d call the studio, and if they said, ‘Yea, we’re open.’ I’d drive up there and spend two hours. There were a lot of days I had the studio booked, and I’d have to call Eric to say, ‘I can’t do it today.’ It was a chore. I was determined to do it, and I soldiered through it. 

    “By the end, I was pretty much in a wheelchair. I didn’t have any breath, so it was hard to sing. You can hear that on there. The vocals don’t have the power I used to have, but I did my best. I was determined to do it. Maybe the vocals are not as powerful or as deep as they used to be, but there’s a lot of urgency in them. I’m pushing myself to even get a note to come out. The last vocal I did was ‘Nobody Moves Me Like You Do’, and it was really hard to just get anything to come out of my throat.”

    Walter Trout 02 by Jeff KatzeditedPhoto by Jeff KatzIn sharing how has the transplant has affected Trout in being able to prepare for the tour, he said, “There’s a little bit of apprehension. I’m going to make my return to the stage on the 15th of June at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It’s a Lead Belly festival, and I’ll be on the bill along with Van Morrison and Eric Burdon. They have another big name that they haven’t announced yet. I’m going to fly over there, and that’s going to be my return to the stage. I’m going to play with a great, young British guitar player named Lawrence Jones. I’m going to come out and play with him and his band. I played on his first album, and he’s a really great friend of mine. Mike Zito produced Lawrence’s first album, and I played on it. So I’m going to go do some tunes with Lawrence and his band on this festival. 

    “I’m a little apprehensive since I haven’t been on stage in so long. Am I going to be ok? I know I’m going to be ok, but there’s always that little voice in the back of your head that goes, ‘Am I going to walk out on stage and start weeping like a baby?’ I think it’s going to be really emotional for sure. I’ll get through the tunes then probably walk off the stage and have a nervous breakdown. ‘My God, I did it! I can still do it.’”

    Here’s what Walter said about what fans can expect for the rest of the tour:

    “We have a brand new bass player who is just awesome, and he’s taken the musical level of the band up a notch. This guy has played with everybody from Steve Winwood to Slash to Branford Marsalis. He can play anything. We’ve been rehearsing with him, and right now, we’ve gone back through my old catalog. We’ve pulled out some tunes we haven’t done in a long time, even a couple we’ve never done live. We’re going to go back and try to do a bit of a different show, and we’re also doing tunes off of “Blues Came Calling,” which we’ve never done live. I think the band is killin’ right now. I think it’s the best it’s ever been. 

    “Like I said, I’m sort of a reborn musician in many ways, and one of them is that I don’t have problems with my hands and theWalter Trout 03 by Jeff KatzeditedPhoto by Jeff Katz muscles in my arms that I had. I’m working out with weights, and I’m riding a recumbent bike. I’ve put on fifty pounds since the transplant, and I feel great. I have some off days. I have days I get up and have dizzy spells, but they say it takes at least a year to get back to normal after a transplant. I’m at nine months, and I’m kickin’ ass.”

    Three years ago when I interviewed Walter, I asked him this question and this was your answer:

    "As we were wrapping up our chat, I asked Walter how he wished to be remembered when he goes to that great blues gig in the sky."

    Your response was, “I would hope they look back and go, ‘He was a dedicated artist who tried to say something with his art. Whether he succeeded or not, that is up to interpretation. That’s a guy who devoted his life to being an artist and was serious about it and also, helped a lot of young people get going.’ I have a lot of young guitar players that I mentor and that means a lot to me. 

    "Of course, I would want my wife and my kids to look back and say, ‘He was a good husband and a good father.’ That’s incredibly important and probably the most important- three kids! But as far as how the world would see me, a guy who just gave everything he could have to try to be the best artist he could be.”

    I asked him if there was anything he would change about that answer.

    “I couldn’t say that any better. I would also like to be remembered as a man who was devoted to his family.  One who realized that the art is ultimately important, and the family is ultimately important. Those are the two things that keep me going in my life. I have to say there was a time when I was close to death that I would tell my wife, ‘I’m ready to go. This hurts too bad.’ And she would say, ‘No, you have to stick around. You leaving is not an option. You need to be here for me and for our kids.’ At that point, I really decided to fight. There was a time I said to her, ‘If I’m never able to play guitar again, I’ll be sad, but I’ll be okay as long as I can still be your husband and be a father to our kids.’ My family is the most important.”

    You can keep up with Walter, his tour and his work at www.waltertrout.com and look for his tour dates here.