Q&A Scene: Walter Trout discusses his new release, We’re All In This Together, track -by-track & guest-by-guest!

Walter Trout - Photo by Austin Hargave

Before you even hear a note, We’re All In This Together has your attention. Drafting fourteen A-list stars – including Joe Bonamassa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, John Mayall and Randy Bachman – and writing an original song for each – Walter Trout has made the most tantalising blues album of the year.

Trout discusses how his friends, and these tracks, came to be:

Gonna Hurt Like Hell (ft. Kenny Wayne Shepherd)

I played Carnegie Hall with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and we talked about recording together. So I said to myself, OK, I need to write a song for Kenny, and it needs to be an uptempo bluesy shuffle, a real stone blues. The lyrics could be about many different things. Say you’re a drug addict. You take your drugs, and it’s gonna feel good for a while, but as soon as you run out of drugs, it’s gonna hurt like hell. Or it could be that you could cheat on your wife: it’ll feel good for those ten minutes, then it’s gonna hurt like hell, if you have a conscience, right? I think that Kenny played great on there. Especially the ending, when we’re trading back and forth. It’s hard to tell who’s who. I think our tones and approach are very similar. We really complemented each other on that track.
Ain’t Goin’ Back (ft. Sonny Landreth)
I will preface this by saying that Sonny Landreth is the greatest slide guitarist in the history of the world. There’s nobody can touch him, I don’t care who you bring up. You have Sonny – then you have everybody else. We’d done a bunch of gigs together and we’d talked about doing this. So I’m like, OK, what do I write for this guy. He’s done a lot of blues songs, but he’s from Louisiana and he’s done a lot of second line stuff. He’s really a New Orleans musician, y’know? So I messed around with different grooves, and came up with a bluesy, almost 50s-esque Americana song. For the lyrics, I went back to a theme of mine that turns up a lot, which is that I did a lot of stupid things in my youth, and I’m not gonna do them again. Sonny is such a down-to-earth, humble guy – in fact, he sent me his track, then called
and said, I don’t know if it’s any good. If you want me to do it over, I won’t be insulted. I listened to it and I was like, What are you talking about, man – it’s f*cking great!
The Other Side Of The Pillow (ft. Charlie Musselwhite)
I’ve known Charlie since I was with Mayall, but I grew up listening to his records when I was still in high school. Just to have him agree to play was an honour. He
s one of the all-time-great bluesmen. Along with Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, Charlie was one of the white students in Chicago in the early 60s who started going to black blues clubs and hanging out and jamming with Muddy Waters, Elmore James, etc. My friend, the great keyboard player/singer/song writer, Richard T. Bear, called me up and he said, I have a blues verse, you want to do something with it? So he sent me this tape. It was him playing
this slow-blues, and he sang, I’m gonna make love to another woman, because you made love to another man. And I said, Man, that’s really a good blues song
. So I used his verse, Charlie wrote the second verse, and I wrote the third verse and came up with the groove.
She Listens To The Blackbird Sing (ft. Mike Zito)
That was a gas to record. I was getting ready to drive to the studio and I sat down with my acoustic guitar and that melody just came out. So we had the basic track, and then I had to go back and write words. I didn’t know who was going to do that song, but Mike Zito and I go way back: he credits me with sobering him up, and I’m happy to have been a part of that. I originally had him play slide, but when he sent it back, I listened to it with Eric Corne and we realised the slide didn’t really fit. So we called Mike back and said, We think this song would be better if you just use fingers and play regular guitar. And he said, You know something, I agree with you. That, I think, is my favourite cut on the record, and a lot of it is due to the playing of Skip Edwards, who’s a genius keyboards player and an old friend of mine from South Jersey. What Skip did to that song is remarkable. We gave him the raw track and he took it out to the stratosphere.
Mr Davis (ft. Robben Ford)
I’ve had the opportunity to do a few shows with Robben Ford as members of The Supersonic Blues Machine and we’ve hung out and become friends.  When he agreed to be on my record, I thought to myself: what do you write for Robben Ford? I mean, here’s a guy who has not only played with Jimmy Witherspoon and Charlie Musselwhite, but he’s played with Miles Davis. So I decided I would try to write a kinda Freddie King-esque guitar instrumental piece. Robben is an incredible guitar player, who has played so many styles but I always think of him primarily as a blues guitarist. I have dedicated this song to the late, great guitarist, Jesse Ed Davis, who took me under his wing and mentored me when I first moved to California in my early 20s. I think Robben played beautifully on this tribute to Jesse Ed.
The Sky Is Crying (ft. Warren Haynes)
That’s the only cover on the record. I’ve gotten to know Warren Haynes through The Supersonic Blues Machine. He invited me to play with him a few years ago at the New Orleans Jazz Festival and he wanted to do The Sky Is Crying. So we did that song and it just came out great. It stopped the show and we had a blast. I was talking to him at the Ramblin’ Man Fair in the UK and I said, Look, I’m gonna do this record and I’d love to get you on there. He said, Yeah, I’m in. And then it just came to me: When we did The Sky Is Crying in New Orleans, it came out awesome. What do you think, maybe we should just record it? So that’s how that one happened. I have to say, I think it’s very hard to tell that we’re not in the studio together. If you listen to that track, when we get into the guitar conversation at the end – it sounds like we’re looking each other right in the face, y’know?
Somebody Goin’ Down (ft. Eric Gales)
I just played a show with Eric Gales in Memphis. He’s an unbelievable guitarist. He’s from another universe, man, he’s just so good and so unique. So when I was writing a song for him, I had to really think about it. Because I don’t think of Eric as just a blues player. He plays everything – funk, jazz, blues and fusion. He mixes all those genres together, right? So I had to come up with something that I thought I could feature him on. And what I came up with was Somebody Goin Down, which starts off almost Bo Diddley-esque, but then, for the solos, we go into a funk thing, y’know? I thought Eric just completely blazed on that song. He just tore it up. It’s a lot of fun creating with someone else, especially when it’s an grade- A artist who you respect deeply.
 
She Steals My Heart Away (ft. Edgar Winter)
There’s a bit of history there . Twenty years, I hired Edgar Winter’s drummer, a guy named Bernie Pershey. Then, eight years ago, I hired another drummer from him – Michael Leasure. I played Carnegie Hall recently – and there was Edgar Winter. We hung out a bit and we hit it off, and I happened to mention this record. Now, Edgar does ballads, he does Frankenstein, he does everything. In fact, he told me, My first love is the blues, but when my brother Johnny started playing guitar, I figured he had that thing covered, and I’d better do something else. Which kinda cracked me up. So I wrote this ballad, with a hook where we sing harmony together, and a section where we play guitar and saxophone harmony. Edgar is very serious. He said, I need the track four days in advance, so I can plan what I do. He was methodical. He’s a perfectionist. And I thought he was stunning on that song.
Crash And Burn (ft. Joe Louis Walker)
Joe Louis Walker is an American icon of this music. He is a good friend to both my wife and myself and we both love the guy. It was great to get him on here. This song was my attempt at writing a little bit of a timely political lyric. I think Joe rips it up on here. His guitar playing and singing is fiery and passionate, and he also has great humour in his playing on here, doesn’t he? He really gets his personality across. Deacon Jones is on this track, too. Nobody plays blues organ better than him. The guy was with Freddie King for 15 years, and then John Lee Hooker for 20 years. He sorta discovered me when I moved to LA in the 70s, and really mentored me. I use him on every record and it’s always a joy for me to call him up. I love the man.
Too Much To Carry (ft. John Nemeth)
I thought it would be great to get Curtis Salgado on this album. He’s a dear friend. I thought this song could use some harmonica and great vocals, and Curtis was all set to do it, but right before he was supposed to record, he had a heart attack and a bypass operation and he was laid up. So we got in touch with John Nemeth, and he was gracious enough to jump in. He nailed the vocals and the harmonica and I am thankful to him for stepping up at the last minute and doing such an outstanding job.
Do You Still See Me At All (ft. Jon Trout)
We sat down with guitars in the kitchen, and we wrote that tune together. We came up with the groove, he contributed a couple of verses, and I wrote a verse. We came up with the unison lick that starts the song off – that’s both of us playing in octaves. I think Jon has my musical DNA, and that’s understandable – he’s been hearing me play since he was in the womb. He was at gigs before he even came into the world, and did his first tour with the band when he was three months old. So he’s got it in his blood. But what s really moving to me is that Jon played guitar from the time he was a little kid. But he played chords, and he liked the Ramones, and he never tried to play leads or blues. Then I got sick and he felt like he was going to lose me. He made the decision that he needed to carry this stuff on. That’s when he dug in and began teaching himself how to solo and play blues. When we play live now, he’s amazing. Anything I throw at him on the guitar, he throws it right back in my face. Playing music with my son is one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, and I am so grateful I get to do this with him. That song was really emotional for me, and I thought he did a beautiful job on there.
Got Nothin’ Left (ft. Randy Bachman)
Last year, I played at the Jeff Healey 50th Celebration Show in Toronto, along with Sonny Landreth and Albert Lee. Randy Bachman came up to me – I didn’t know who he was at first – taps me on the shoulder and goes, Man, I was driving, and this guitar solo came on the radio, and it kept building and building, and it got so intense, I had to pull over. And I didn’t know who it was, so I called up the radio station and I said who the hell was that? And it was you, man! So I hung out with him, and we became friends, and we started emailing back and forth, and I said, Man, I’d love you to be on this record. He said, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll play on your record, if you’ll play on mine. Writing a song for him, I thought, Well, we’re kinda the same age. He’s a little older, but he grew up listening to old rock n roll, as I did. So for him, I wrote something that was 50s rock n roll. When his vocal comes in, I smiled, because it’s the same voice that you hear on Takin Care Of Business by BTO. His voice hasn’t changed! It’s really awesome to have him on my record.
Blues For Jimmy T. (ft. John Mayall)
That was pretty awesome. Even though John has now been on three of my records – it’s still the biggest honour for me. If I start trying to talk about what that man means to me, I’m gonna lose it, but without him. Without him, I don’t know how my life would have ended up. Meeting him and being in the Bluesbreakers was the complete turning point in my life and without that, I might have still been playing down at the corner bar. This time, I really wanted to do something different with him. That’s why I came up with the idea of doing an acoustic song, kinda like a Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee type of thing, with lyrics about my old bass player and best friend Jimmy Trapp. So I’ve got my dear friend and mentor playing on that song, and it’s about my old buddy. So it’s really emotional for me to hear that song. It’s hard for me to listen to it, almost.
We’re All In This Together (ft. Joe Bonamassa)
On the original Full Circle album in 2006, every cut was done live and we were in the studio together. With this list of guests, I realised that was not gonna happen. With this track with Joe, we did it live, looking at each other right in the face. What you are hearing is a first-take and the fire and the spontaneity are just raging. Joe and I were three feet away from each other in the same room as the band. Joe’s playing on here is completely stunning. I really believe we pushed each other to great heights, and when the song was done, we all just looked at each other and started laughing and I said: wow, I think we just nailed it! There was absolutely no need to record it again. Thank you, Joe for being so gracious and giving your very best to this project.

 We’re All In This Together is out September 1st on Mascot Label Group’s Provogue imprint.

Pre-orders are available HERE now.

DOWNLOAD THE FREE TRACK “DO YOU STILL SEE ME AT ALL” here.

About Mary Boukouvalas 655 Articles
Mary is a music photographer and reviewer.

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