We’re All In This Together–indeed. For his latest studio album, Walter Trout called some of blues’ best performers–and boy did they come through. Each musician featured on this album has serious blues chops; there’s no one musician on here that is more impressive than the rest, though John Mayall and Joe Bonamassa are probably the two with the greatest fame. Trout doted on them all, writing each song with one specific musician in mind. In the case of guest musician Warren Haynes, Trout arranged for the two of them to record “The Sky Is Crying,” which they had first performed while sharing the stage at the New Orleans Jazz Festival years ago. For each of his other 13 guests, Trout wrote original material. In order of appearance on the album, those guests are: Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Sonny Landreth, Charlie Musselwhite, Mike Zito, Robben Ford, Warren Haynes, Eric Gales, Edgar Winter, Joe Louis Walker, John Nemeth, Jon Trout, Randy Bachman, John Mayall and Joe Bonamassa.
From Landreth, the “king” of slide zydeco music, to Musselwhite the harmonica master, Trout’s collection of friends gave him lots of music to choose from. Instead of selecting just one specific corner of the blues on which to hone in, he embraced them all. In Winter’s case, Trout assessed his background of rock, jazz, R&B and blues and approached Winter with three directions in which they could take the song. For Shepherd, Trout immersed himself in the guitarist’s blues-driven rock. “I wanted these guys to be able to really get into the material that I was providing for them,” Trout explained in a recent interview with Blues Rock Review. Some tracks delved deeper into the collaboration zone: when his friend Richard T. Bear approached him with a lyric idea, Trout thought it would be a perfect match for Musselwhite. Bear, Trout and Musselwhite then joined forces to complete the song. Once in the studio, that track became “The Other Side of the Pillow.”
It’s often fun to see the results of a collaboration between two artists; but this? This goes several steps further than the average partnership. With Trout at the helm, listeners know that he’ll steer the album into safe harbors. But he certainly had to work for this one. In addition to requiring Tetris-like strategy for the recording process, the material itself required equal amounts of creativity and research. Though Trout was familiar with all of his guests’ work before settling down to write for them, writing music within their mental and creative space was a completely different monster of a project–and it comes off very well, despite the fact that only two of the songs were recorded when the artists involved were in the same studio at the same time (“Do You Still See Me at All” with Trout’s son Jon and the title track with Bonamassa). However, the songs are pieced together so seamlessly, most listeners won’t be able to detect the difference.
The album’s greatest moments include Mayall’s and Trout’s tandem performance (created in tribute to their deceased friend), the father-son guitar swaps in “Do You Still See Me at All” and the energy that vibrates through the speakers when Bonamassa and Trout bring the album to a rollicking close. But each track on this album has its moments–we wouldn’t expect anything less from a bluesman like Trout or his impressive guest list. The only thing that concerns us is the fact that it ends after 14 tracks. This could easily become a series, with 14 new artists featured for the next album, and 14 more for the album after that. What do you say, Walter?
The Review: 8.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– The Other Side of the Pillow (feat. Charlie Musselwhite)
– Ain’t Goin’ Back (feat. Sonny Landreth)
– Blues for Jimmy T. (feat. John Mayall)
– We’re All In This Together (feat. Joe Bonamassa)
The Big Hit
– We’re All In This Together
Review by Meghan Roos