Walter Trout, a blues guitarist and vocalist who has played with a number of bands over the years, including Canned Heat and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, was a personal friend as well as a fan of Luther Allison. This CD is his tribute to Allison, featuring 11 of Allison’s songs, a small spoken word bit from Allison himself, and “When Luther Played the Blues,” Trout’s heartfelt song about the man, which features incredible guitar work throughout it.
Trout’s style is very different from Allison’s. Trout is much bluesier, while Allison was more soulful. On this CD, Trout has not tried to copy Allison’s style, but has melded his own sound with Allison’s words and music to create a wonderful amalgam of the two.
The tribute opens with “I’m Back,” a blues-rock number that catches the listener’s attention. Then, Trout delivers a remarkably emotional rendition of “Cherry Red Wine,” a desperate plea for a woman to stop killing herself with alcohol. The scorching guitar underscores the urgency of the words perfectly.
Next comes “Move From the Hood,” which loses some of its Motown roots and becomes a blues-rock number with some hot and heavy guitar. “Bad Love” follows. It is a slower track that sticks pretty close to the original and really sells the melancholic lyrics.
“Big City” shines for the somewhat psychedelic, smashing guitar work. It is followed by a loving, swinging tribute to “Chicago,” and that is followed by this reviewer’s favorite song on the CD, the deeply emotional and honest love song, “Just as I Am,” on which Trout wrings the feeling from every word.
“Low Down and Dirty” returns to blues-rock and it features excellent slide guitar by Trout and a duet with Allison’s son Bernard
Continuing the extreme versatility of the moods and songs on this collection, “Pain in the Streets” is a slower number with strong guitar solos and a powerful urban justice message. It is followed by the rip-snorting guitars and vocals of “All the King’s Horses.”
The last Allison song on the CD is the yearning, earnest anti-apartheid song, “Freedom,” which reflects the courage that Allison showed in speaking out about hot-button issues in his time.
Walter Trout has never sounded better or played better than he does on this CD. His affection for Allison and love for his music adds depth to the vocals and flows through the guitar work as well. His band delivers great bass, rhythm and percussion throughout and the CD is a must for Allison fans, Trout fans, and lovers of blues in general.