Walter Trout & the Radicals - Relentless
I must admit right up front that I am an avid Walter Trout fan. Like the old line, if you look up the definition of blues/rock in the dictionary, it will say “See Walter Trout.” I first saw him in concert in the late 80’s when he was one of the lead guitarists in John Mayall’s band (the other guitarist was Coco Montoya). Mayall would always let his band play a couple of songs before he came out to join them. I distinctly remember my jaw beginning to drop when Trout was just playing some tune-up blues riffs. It was clear from that concert that he was too great a performer to be the guitarist in someone else’s band, even it was Mayall, the British father of the blues. Since that time, I have purchased every recording on which he played. Needless to say, when his newly released CD “Relentless” was available this week, I had to buy a copy.

The entire CD was recorded live in Amsterdam in May of this year. I truly admire the concept of a live CD with all new songs. You get to hear the songs performed spontaneously and untouched by studio manipulation, yet perfectly recorded with all instruments and vocals clear and “hot.” Trout has always had a four-piece band with lead guitar, bass, drums, and organ. Although the drummer and keyboard player have changed over the years, Jimmy Trapp, the bass player, has been with Trout for over 10 years. The CD has 14 new songs with most of them between four and six minutes in length. The songs can be categorized as follows: two are slow blues, three are somewhat pop-oriented (two of these featuring acoustic guitar), and the rest are tough & aggressive blues/rock. Each of Trout’s previous CDs seems to feature an extended slow blues with intense and emotional guitar playing and the two on this CD are no exception. Two of the pop-oriented songs feature acoustic guitar and an opportunity to appreciate Trout’s excellent vocals in a quieter than normal setting. The blues/rock tracks are, in my opinion, some of the best he has recorded. Each has an immediately catchy opening riff. As always, his guitar playing is extraordinary. I almost run out of superlatives to describe his playing, but the several that come to mind are: taste, tone, speed, fluidity, and intensity. On one track (Empty Eyes), he plays slide guitar, which I don’t remember hearing him play much, if at all, in previous recordings. And, as an added bonus, the DVD of the performance will be released in the Fall of this year.

For me, everything I look for in a great CD comes together in “Relentless.” Instrumental prowess, great vocals, recording quality, songwriting, and “attitude” are all found here. This CD will remain in my player for a long time to come.

Al Kaplan

Walter Trout – guitar & vocals; Jimmy Trapp – bass; Sammy Avila – Hammond B-3; Joey Pafumi – drums

1. I’m Tired - 2. The Life I Chose - 3. Jericho Road - 4. Work No More - 5. Talk To Ya - 6. Cry If You Want To - 7. Chatroom Girl - 8. My Heart Is True - 9. Lonely Tonight - 10. Helpin’ Hand - 11. Collingswood - 12. Empty Eyes - 13. The Best You Got - 14. Mercy
Link:  Walter Trout & the Radicals
© Al Kaplan 2003