It's hard to believe that Walter Trout will be 60 years old next year. He still seems like a new kid on the block to me, but it's now been 20 years since he left John Mayall's Bluesbreakers to form his own band. Prior to that he'd played alongside the likes of Percy Mayfield and John Lee Hooker before a lengthy stint in Canned Heat. But it was as part of a dual guitar lineup with Coco Montoya in the Bluesbreakers that he really made his name.
Since then he's set about doing things the old fashioned way, touring the world, playing his songs live to an appreciative audience. It's Blues-rock done in a solid, workmanlike fashion with his ever-impressive guitar work firmly in the fore. Some people see his music as being formulaic, blue-collar Blues-rock, which may explain why Trout has chosen to title this retrospective Unspoiled By Progress. However, anyone who lent an ear to his last studio album, The Outsider, will know that isn't always the case.
Things kick off with a fabulous, anthemic call to arms in the shape of "They Call Us the Working Class," a fiery, political diatribe about the state of the world — and one of the finest songs of his long career. From then on in, it's a mixture of studio and live material from the last twenty years, with the first of the live tunes being a fantastic run through of the Freddie King classic, "Goin' Down," taken from a 1991 BBC radio session. Amongst the other live gems are a barnstorming take on Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally" from 1991 and a 1989 performance of the John Mayall tune, "Somebody's Acting Like A Child".
For people who think that Trout is too much rock and not enough Blues, then "Finally Gotten Over You" will be a bit of an eye opener, with some impressive harmonica honking. Then take a listen to one of the new tracks, "Two Sides To Every Story," a delightful piece of country Blues that Trout says was written after listening to "a few hours of Lightnin' Hopkins."
The album also serves as a testament to some of the excellent musicians who have done time in his band over the years, with the early '90s work of keyboardist of Danny "Mongo" Abrams always being a treat. There's also a fine tribute to the late, great bassist Jimmy Trapp who gets a solo spot during "Goin' Back Home." On the 21st century material, it's the Hammond B3 work of Sammy Avila that really adds some sparkle to the music.
Walter Trout may regard himself and his music as unspoiled by progress, something that is not always a good thing. However, when you've got the chops and the songs to release what is essentially an album of outtakes and have it turn out this well, then progress be damned! Fans will love this, and if you've never tried the Trout before, then give it a taste. You might be surprised.