Review: "Battle Scars" - Walter Trout

by Andy Snipper,

If any Blues fan doesn’t know of Walter Trout’s recent near terminal illness and subsequent recovery after a liver transplant will probably have been in a hole for the last couple of years.

This album chronicles his near demise and recovery in a linear manner, touching on his feelings and the activities of those around him.

The front cover tells a story with Trout’s lined and careworn face framed by his favourite Strat – you can see over 40 years of touring and abuse in every line and wrinkle while the eyes tell of his pain and that feeling of almost giving up. The back cover tells a story too – the hands playing that same Strat as though he had a target keeping him alive. Chilling but strong and ultimately positive.

His last album The Blues Came Calling was voted album of the year in many polls and awards and, for me, there was no question that Trout was writing an epitaph, the loneliness in some of the tracks painfully evoking the knowledge of upcoming death, but this album definitely builds from the deepest of holes into a thankful discovery of life. Amazingly, neither album is mawkish or self-pitying; he is too good a songwriter for that.

Musically, this sounds great. Trout is singing well and his guitar playing has all his power and subtlety. The band – Sammy Avila keyboards, Michael Leasure on drums & Johnny Griparic bass – are cooking up some hot stew. The songs are strong and you can hear his improvement in demeanour and health track by track but the album hangs together on the theme as well as a strong selection of songs.

This is one album that is so much a complete entity that there is no point in picking out any numbers as favourites or in marvelling in a particular bit of skill or intensity from Trout or the band but it is one of the most powerful albums of the year, whether in Blues/Rock or any other genre and exactly equal to the sum of its parts.

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