Monday, July 3, 2017

CD Review: Walter Trout's Battle Scars (2015)

Walter Trout's Battle Scars
Here’s the CliffsNotes version of the Walter Trout saga: the beloved blues-rock guitarist was to spend much of 2014 taking a victory lap in honor of the 25th anniversary of his solo career. Instead, he was fighting like hell just to exist before and after his life-saving liver transplant. Before illness had sidelined him in late 2013, he recorded The Blues Came Callin’, a powerful twelve-song celebration of life in the face of mortality. After much struggle, pain, and prayer, the guitarist has come out the other side a wiser, but no less determined man.

After shaking off the ring rust by getting back on stage and doing what he loves best, Trout took a new batch of songs into the studio and recorded Battle Scars. No less potent a set than The Blues Came Callin’, the new album doesn’t stray far from the familiar, guitar-driven blues-rock blueprint that Trout has followed for a couple of decades. What is new here is that Trout, unlike Robert Johnson, has shaken the hellhounds from his trail for a second chance at life.

Battle Scars opens with the incredible “Almost Gone,” as haunting a song as any Delta bluesman ever imagined. Fueled by Trout’s dark, mesmerizing fretwork – which runs like the river Styx beneath his somber vocals – this is the lyrical moment of truth, the singer full of regret but icily staring down the Reaper. The dramatic, tragic “Omaha” offers another jackhammer performance, as stark as a dark alleyway, but is balanced by Trout with “Please Take Me Home,” a beautiful, heartfelt ballad for his wife, who stood by his side during the ordeal.

By the time the guitarist gets to the acoustic “Gonna Live Again,” the listener has taken an emotional roller-coaster ride with this underrated songwriter, the song’s fluid melody and melancholy guitar strum a declaration of a bittersweet sort of optimism.  Battle Scars is Trout’s Inferno, a tale of redemption and rebirth that doesn’t shy away from reality but rings loudly with hope…it’s also the best album, in all facets, that Trout has ever recorded. Here’s to another 25 years! (Provogue Records, released October 23, 2015)

Reprinted courtesy of Blues Music Magazine

Buy the CD from Walter Trout’s Battle Scars

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