Review: Walter Trout – Ordinary Madness
Provogue/Mascot Label Group (August 28th 2020)
Reviewer: Peter Scallan
As I get older, I feel myself strangely drawn back to the music that most excited me as a kid, which was blues and blues-based rock. In fact you could say I am regressing as it’s something I have an urge to do at some point, having already had a taste of the blues having sung in the Brian Rawson Band for a year or so. But that’s another story altogether! As I delve into the blues a little deeper I am discovering gems that have been hidden in plain sight all along. One such gem is Walter Trout, who I was looking forward to seeing on the Keeping the Blues Alive cruise with Joe Bonamassa. It’s some small consolation that I got the job of reviewing the latest album from Walter Trout.
The album opens with the title track ‘Ordinary Madness‘. This is a slow burning slab of blues which slowly builds. While it is traditional blues groove, Walter’s vocals and guitar-playing make it far from ordinary. We then pick up the pace with ‘Wanna Dance‘ with an intro that builds into a rhythm section driven blues rocker and the vocals moving up a notch. It also has a killer chorus in my opinion. The groove changes again with a country blues feel with ‘My Foolish Pride‘. An acoustic guitar based number, it shows a more sensitive side to Mr Trout’s playing and vocals.
‘Heartland‘ just kicks straight in with drums and it’s up and running. To my ears this is classic melodic Americana and from the get-go has got that Tom Petty feel to it. We then return to a more recognisable blues format with ‘All Out of Tears‘ which is another blues ballad of sorts. It moves along with piano, organ and guitar weaving various textures and layers and is just magnificent to my old ears. The feel changes again with the opening bars of ‘Final Curtain Call‘. The opening guitar riff has a swagger not unlike a classic Jimmy Page riff and it rocks out somewhat, with an edgy vocal. Some great harmonica in there too!
‘Heaven In Your Eyes‘ takes us into the back-half of this album. It’s a mid-paced melodic ballad, with the intro reminiscent of Gary Moore’s Empty Rooms. This song highlights a more accessible, almost commercial side of the blues, which Walter easily pulls off. Opening with acapella vocals, ‘The Sun is Going Down‘ is just a masterpiece in terms of vocals, guitar and lyrics. The guitar riff has the feel of Chris Whitley circa Din of Ecstasy with a slightly grungy blues feel. We are then back on the up-tempo side of Walter’s repertoire with another huge slice of melodic blues that I could imagine Alan Nimmo from King King singing. Called ‘Make it Right‘, it motors along with more top notch playing and singing. And just to keep you on your toes, the feel and tempo change yet again with ‘Up Above My Sky‘. This has an almost dreamy, psychedelic 60s feel initially and is just sublime. And then just around the half-way mark it kicks into a great guitar driven monster with Walter giving it big licks. And just as quickly we are back into that 60’s feel again. And speaking of the 60’s, we have ‘OK Boomer‘ as the closing number. Sounding semi-autobiographical and reflective, Walter is asserting that he most definitely ok! It is a driving rocker and is a fitting end to this album.
I am sure those who are more in the know with regards the back catalogue of Walter Trout, might be able to point to the highlights of his career. And yeah, some of the tracks tread a well-worn path. However, very few will do it with the aplomb of this veteran of the blues scene. For me this is a master class in how to put a blues album together and then some. It just gets better every time I listen to it! If this is ordinary madness, I want to completely lose my marbles!