‘Strat’ Rides Again
With so many living legends around, it's rare to find someone like Walter Trout (New Jersey, 1951), whose idea of happiness is to be able to play his guitar alongside the players he considers to be his mentors. And one of the first was none other than John Lee Hooker. He set the standard at a very high level, high enough to be recruited by Canned Heat and after that by the great Mayall to become one of his Bluesbreakers. Not even a serious illness could take away his desire to strap on his '73 Stratocaster. His life depended on a liver transplant in 2013. Two years later he released a new album and was preparing for a tour now recorded for posterity on his new release, Alive in Amsterdam. The secret behind his spectacular recovery is obvious listening to it.
That secret is nothing more than that old Strat he bought in 1974, one year after it came out of the factory. Except for a couple of pieces made of bone that he changed for metal ones because they had a tendency to break, Trout himself insists the rest is all standard issue from top to bottom. He doesn't need any flashy tunings, and neither does the blues.
He shows so much love for the tool of his trade that at first he refused to be separated from it even on planes. That was his carry-on luggage. But after 9/11 happened, the authorities banned it from being seated at his side. The solution was to 'clone' his beloved Strat and leave the original at home. He gives the impression that losing it would hurt him more than the organ the doctors took out of him.
Neither his obsessions nor the illness could beat this guardian of the bluesy essences. His style is still fully charged with the life force of the great guitarists of the genre, which he displays in spades in Amsterdam, just a few kilometres from Denmark where a producer convinced him in the mid-'80s to embark on his first solo tour. He saw him fronting the Bluesbreakers one night when the leader was sick and had no doubt whatsoever that Trout was something special.
Amsterdam was a celebration. Not even during his convalescence at the start of this decade did he stop writing songs and was even allowed to release a new album prior to receiving the thumbs up from his doctors. As soon as he could, he returned to the live stage so his Fender could cut loose with all the pent-up emotions and angst he’d experienced since going under the surgeon's knife. Painful, but also a perfect formula for the blues.
Trout unleashed a genuine torrent of emotion on that night of November 28th, 2015, on every song, in each solo that you know how it starts but never when it's going to end thanks to his ridiculously accomplished technique, one that you can only learn from three decades of apprenticeship as a prized sideman. Today, this guardian of the guitar is back to brandish his six-string lance. The Strat rides again.