Provogue Records has announced “Luther’s Blues” – a brand new tribute album to the great blues artist Luther Allison, recorded by America’s veteran blues rock guitarist, Walter Trout. The album will be released in the UK on Monday 10th June on CD, Digital Download and Double Vinyl.
Walter Trout’s story is a page-turner. Five decades in the making; it is equal parts thriller, romance, suspense and horror. There are musical fireworks, critical acclaim and fists-aloft triumph, offset by wilderness years and brushes with the jaws of narcotic oblivion. There are feted early stints as gunslinger in bands from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers to Canned Heat, and a solo career that’s still blazing a quarter-century later.
The veteran bluesman has seen and done it all, with just one omission: he’s never made a covers album, until now. “Luther Allison’s Blues is my first,” Trout notes. “I’ve thought about doing this album for years.”
Of all the peaks in Trout’s trajectory, his abiding memory of the late Chicago bluesman is perhaps the most literal. It’s 1986, and high above Lake Geneva, at the palatial Alpine chalet of late Montreux Jazz Festival Svengali Claude Nobs, lunch is being served. “So we’re up at the top of the Alps,” Trout recalls, “in this big room with John Mayall, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Robert Cray, Otis Rush, and as we’re eating, Dr. John is serenading us on acoustic piano. I was sat there with Luther Allison, and we had a great talk.
“Luther was one of the all-time greats” Trout continues. “It was just an unbelievably potent thing to watch him perform. The energy and commitment that guy had - he was one of a kind. We played together once, at the Jazz Fest that year, and just as we walked offstage, somebody pointed a camera and we hugged and smiled. That photo is on the cover of the CD. When he died in 1997, the idea of the album was planted in my brain."
The tribute album was recorded at Hollywood’s Entourage Studios, helmed by producer Eric Corne: the same team that produced 2012’s acclaimed solo release, Blues For The Modern Daze. The atmosphere, remembers Trout, was one of spit, grit and seat-of-the-pants energy: “Spontaneity is so important with this sort of music. Everybody was saying, ‘Well, aren’t you gonna get together and rehearse?’, but you don’t want to over-analyse or get too sterile. This album was all pretty much first or second takes. It’s gotta have warts on it. It’s gotta have a bit of grease in it.”
“At times, I ask myself if I have taken on too much here?” admits Trout. “Like, am I actually capable of doing justice to this? To me, Cherry Red Wine is one of the all-time greatest blues songs ever written, and Luther’s original version is so unbelievably passionate and emotional that even to sing it was a daunting task. If I had my way with this album, it would reignite interest in his work, make people go back and check out the originals.”
With a thrilling catalogue of 22 solo albums, a still-growing army of fans and accolades including a nod as “the world’s greatest rock guitarist” in legendary DJ Bob Harris’s autobiography The Whispering Years, and a #6 placing on BBC Radio One’s countdown of the Top 20 Guitarists of All Time. Trout’s most recent original album, Blues For The Modern Daze, was heralded by titles like Classic Rock Blues as perhaps his finest to date. “I feel like with Modern Daze,” he adds, “I found the style I’ve been searching for over 20 albums.”
As Walter Trout celebrates his 25th year as a solo star next year, there’s no whiff of the ennui or creative autopilot that hobbles the later output of most veterans. Today, there’s a sense of growing momentum, even a little surprise. “It’s hard to believe I’m still alive, to be honest,” he smiles. “I should have been dead by 30. But I still have a career, and at 62. I’m still climbing the ladder, which keeps it exciting, instead of trying to rekindle past glories. I feel like I play with more fire than when I was 25.”
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