Walter Trout Battle Scars on 180g 2LP + Download
With bristling energy, unflagging virtuosity and lyrics that cut to the core of human hope and willpower, Walter Trout's new album, Battle Scars, chronicles his horrific battle with liver failure. But the 12-song set, which will be released by Mascot Label Group's Provogue Records in October 2015 also captures the international guitar hero, on a new high – playing and singing at the peak of his abilities, infusing even his darkest numbers with creative joy that sweeps like a beacon.
Initially, Trout hoped to capture his renewal and positivity in the songs, "but," says Trout, "they were coming out cliché and I wanted to write something deeper." After Marie, Trout's wife and manager, suggested that he revisit the difficult experiences of his illness, the songs began pouring out. The first was "Omaha," which resonates with smashing chords and vibrating low strings: a solo packed with pealing midnight howls. The lyrics tell a tale of a man haunted by death.
"I was in UCLA for a month, and later at the Nebraska Medical Center for five months in the liver ward – first waiting for the transplant, and then recovering from the surgery," Trout recounts. "There were days when somebody in the ward died while waiting. I'd hear families out in the hall crying and doctors trying to comfort them. And I knew there was a good chance that I'd be the next one to go. For ‘Omaha.' I wanted to capture how that felt and sounded."
The opening song "Almost Gone" is equally potent. As the finger picked introduction intones, Trout lays his cards on the table: "Now I get the feeling/Something's going wrong/Can't help but feelin'/I won't last too long." The fatalism is balanced by the music – from the exquisite roar of Trout's harmonica that follows those words to the ebullient, soaring six-string that gives the tune a tsunami of uplift.
"Almost Gone" captures the strength I got from my wife, urging me to go on fighting when I was in pain, and on the verge of death," says Trout. "I looked up into her eyes, and she gave me the power to carry on. That experience is reflected in my playing on the song." Another key track is "Gonna Live Again," which gets its organic grounding from Trout's acoustic guitar and the gentle quiver of emotion in his voice. "That's me asking God, ‘Why me?' When so many people died waiting, why did I survive? I've been given a chance to try again – a chance to be a better husband, a better father, and a better man."
Battle Scars is Trout's 18th album released by the Netherlands-based Provogue label and his 42nd overall, counting his pre-solo-career recordings as a member of the historic groups: Canned Heat and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.