February 20, 2024

Blues survivor Walter Trout is back with a new studio album, and rocking as powerfully as ever. His former hard living and self-destructive lifestyle has been the stuff of legend, especially his brush with the grim reaper due to liver failure in 2013. Talk to him now and emotion pricks his eyes as he considers how close he came to death, his long, slow rehabilitation, and the fate of the donor whose liver gave him a second chance. The experience continues to inform his music a decade later, as can be seen by his recent album names, 2015’s Battle Scars, Survivor Blues from 2019 and this latest offering, simply named Broken. But this is no introspective, maudlin effort; he turns his Strat up loud and hits it hard, as angry at the Broken state of the world as he is at the damage in his own life.

Photo by Leland Hayward

If there are ever two musicians whose experiences give them a shared platform, it’s Walter Trout and fellow survival specialist Beth Hart, who shares the vocals on the album’s opening number and title track. It’s a slow blues, in which they take turns singing the verses and sing carefully-constructed harmony on the choruses. Considering Hart is currently the best blues-rock singer currently drawing breath (in my opinion, of course), there’s no showboating on this one; she follows Walter’s vocal timing impeccably and communicates the lyrics in a restrained and soulful manner. There’s a great guitar solo on this one too.

Turn And Walk Away starts with raw acoustic, resonator guitar and plaintive harp played by Walter himself, accompanied by a single, droning chord supplied by a harmonium. It’s authentic cowboy blues; you can almost smell the dust and see the heat rising off the sand, but it builds into a rock number, with screaming guitar. Courage In The Dark continues in more restrained fashion, with a thudding, low bassline reminiscent of Alannah Myles’ Black Velvet.

It’s the next number where the band really starts to rock though, featuring Will Wilde, the Eddie van Halen of the harp, from British blues-rockers Bad Luck Friday. Lead single Bleed is a proper, aggressive rocking blues with Wilde’s overdriven harp filling the gaps between the vocal lines – follow the video link at the foot of this page. Talkin’ To Myself takes more of a melodic pop-rock approach, still with that thudding bass, and an unusual guitar sound – I don’t know, sounds like an electric sitar perhaps, the same sound Rory Gallagher used on Philby from his classic Top Priority album.

Second single Broken, featuring Beth Hart – click the graphic to play the video

No Magic (On The Street) starts with more howling harp accompanying a rolling blues with semi-spoken lyrics reminiscent of George Thorogood; great guitar solo on this one too, with deep, sliding notes. The legendary Dee Snider from Twisted Sister puts in a guest spot on the vocals for I’ve Had Enough, another up-tempo rocker with as much frustrated venom as the title suggests.

It’s only now that Walter brings the power down a notch for the romantic, rim-shot instrumental Love Of My Life. There’s a flavour of some of Santana’s melodic instrumental work here, but also a tremendous electric piano solo. And more proof that Walter won’t be hemmed in by crass genre restrictions is offered by the unashamedly country ballad Breathe.

Spooky whooshing sounds over a spoken word passage introduce Heaven Or Hell, a driving rocker with a cowbell rhythm. ‘We get what we deserve’ is the strident message to this moral hymn with a crash ending and lots of echo, which is followed by a simple love ballad named I Wanna Stay, adorned with a sweet, clear-toned guitar solo.

The 54-minute set comes to an end with the Fleetwood Mac-influenced Falls Apart, in which all the instruments fade out, just leaving vocal harmonies to finish the album on their own, with that final message, ‘It falls apart’, to chew on at the end. This is a great effort from the septuagenarian Walter Trout, with some full-on rockers but plenty of light and shade. Keep ‘em coming, man.

Broken by Walter Trout is released on 1 March 2024 via Provogue / Mascot