On the closing track of his amazing new album, Luther’s Blues, Walter Trout testifies to the power and passion of one of his heroes when he boldly sings, “leave your ego, play the music, love the people, that’s the way he lived, when Luther played the blues he gave us all he had to give.” This simple sentiment is the guiding principle behind this stellar tribute album to one of the more unsung icons of the blues and electric guitar, Luther Allison.
In his 25-plus year career Walter Trout has also become a bit of an icon, forging a reputation as a fire breathing guitarist after his tenure with Canned Heat and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, so he seems the natural choice to be the one who could take the Allison catalog up a few more notches. Trout enlisted producer Eric Corne to capture the raw, seat of the energy of live takes with his crack road band of keyboardist Sammy Avila, bass man Rick Knapp and drummer Michael Leasure. The quartet blazes through the 11-song greatest hits collection from Allison’s lexicon of hard driving blues and soul burners, taking each to new heights of pyrotechnic musical orgasms.
Trout goes so completely over the top on “Cherry Red Wine,” one of Allison’s signature tunes, making it hard to believe such gut wrenching vocals are coming from a 62-year-old. The band recasts Allison’s protest song “Big City,” over a Voodoo Chile groove giving a nod to Hendrix and Stevie Ray as well with his wailing Stratocaster. The muscular funk of tracks “Chicago” and “Freedom” is propelled by a rhythm section steaming at mach one, flaying out a fusillade of notes, but then turning on a dime to give a tasteful reading of the gospel infused “Just As I Am.” Trout then trades barbs with Luther’s son Bernard Allison on the turbo charged Texas boogie “Low Down and Dirty.” The albums other guest star is a short recording of Luther speaking of his life’s philosophy of wanting to be part of the universe of nature and make friends everywhere he went.
Luther’s Blues succeeds on many levels, as it will no doubt lead many to discover the music of Luther Allison as well as showcase the power and precision of Walter Trout and his stellar band who deliver what may prove to be the electric blues album of the year.