Walter Trout told us to keep this secret – but it’s too good. Towards the start of his set, he plays a new song. “Me, My Guitar And The Blues”. It is, he explains, from a new record that no one knows about (sorry Walter…). If the emotion his guitar conveys during in it, is one thing, then the way it explodes before the end is quite another. It is an astonishing cut – and considering his last two albums have been immense, then there’s no reason to doubt him this time, either.
Before we get to New Jersey’s king of the blues, we can start with Cornwall’s kings of slide. Wille And The Bandits. Wille Edwards and the boys left the South West at 9am this morning (“we had a ceremonial pasty, it was emotional”) and are absolutely ready for their half hour after the journey. “Bad News” sees Edwards thrill with his guitar skills, “Victim Of The Night” is crunchy blues rock, but the thing about WATB is that you’d be a brave – or daft – man to try and pin them down. From out of nowhere they’re playing a gloriously laid back cover of Peter Green’s “Black Magic Woman”, and there are swathes of funky bass in other places. It is, though, their closing number, “1970” that sums them up in so many ways. This type of seemingly off-the-cuff rock n roll doesn’t belong in the here and now, it is timeless, crossing generations and here Bilston is definitely bandit country.
So, back to Walter Trout. Over the last few years, since his recovery from his liver transplant, his regular visits over here have been some of the most joyous occasions on the gig calendar. It may be a joke that he always cracks, but when he says: “We’re happy to be here. Speaking personally I’m just happy to be anywhere…” he means it.
This time Walter is back with a band that is in with the old and in with the new, as it were. Teddy “Zig Zag” Andreadis (once in Guns N Roses and Alice Cooper’s touring bands) is on keys and Johnny Griparic is back on the bass, and this version of Walter Trout’s band are in stunning form.
From the minute “I Can Tell” acts as the opener – and Walter has proved that he might just be the finest guitar player around – this is a special, special gig. After the new song Trout says to the boys “lets pick it up, shall we?” and sends out a blistering “Ride Till We’re Satisfied”, but then, as if to emphasise the breadth of his work (not to mention how important these songs are in so many ways) there’s “Almost Gone” and “Cold, Cold Ground” from his comeback album “Battle Scars”. Both are given new arrangements and the latter absolutely screeches defiance.
A former member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Trout calls on Rod Mayall – John’s brother – for an emotional “Blues For Jimmy T.” – Trout’s heartfelt tribute to his former bass player. They really cut loose here and Trout feels it. “Sometimes,” he says. “when we’re rocking out like that I feel like in 20. When we’re done I feel like I am 90….!” He jokes.
It is a tribute to his work, though, that there is no clowing around when he plays “Take Me Home”. The Springsteen-esque vibe cloaks a song dedicated to Walter’s wife – and he visibly emotional at its end.
Everyone here, though, knows you need a good rock out. And the presence of the astonishing vocals of Andrew Elt provides that on “Lord Have Mercy” and the band freak out of the classic “I’m Goin’ Down” is a belter too.
That cover and the one that ends the show – Rory Gallagher’s “Bullfrog Blues” – prove two things. First, that Walter is nothing more and nothing less than a student of the blues. But second, no one can play these songs as well as him.
The word legend is overused – I understand that –but when its apt it’s apt. On every level, Walter Trout is a living one. And he is out to celebrate that. One of the gigs of the year – like it is every time.