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The 10 best blues rock albums ever, by Walter Trout

Walter Trout
(Image credit: Alex Solca)

When it comes to blues rock, guitarist Walter Trout knows what he’s talking about. With a career that spans over 20 years, he’s played with everyone from John Mayall to Canned Heat to John Lee Hooker.

These are his 10 favourite blues rock albums.

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Taj Mahal: Taj Mahal (Columbia/Legacy, 1968)

I was sat in the back of the bus with my iPod and my drummer asks what I’m listening to. So I told him – the bible of blues rock. He’d never heard of it, but he sat and listened, then took the headphones off and said ‘holy shit’. 

Taj Mahal has had a long, legendary career, and he’s made a lot of albums that have probably outsold this. But back in 1968, it was astounding.

Taj Mahal: The Natch’l Blues (Columbia/Legacy, 1968)

Everything just came together on those first two albums. I remember in my high school, nobody knew about this record, and any kid that came to my house, it was the first thing I put on. 

It’s not always about how many records you sell. In LA, you can go into any restaurant and your waiter will be someone who was in a band that sold a million records. What happened to Kajagoogoo, y’know?

Michael Bloomfield with Nick Gravenites: Live At Bill Graham’s Fillmore West (Columbia, 1969)

Michael Bloomfield had a few good years where he played his ass off, then he kinda lost it a bit, I think due to drugs. This album is sloppy, the band is not very good, and you can tell they’re kinda loaded and haven’t rehearsed much, but his playing and tone are spectacular. 

He always said he tried to play sweet, and you will never, ever, hear a Les Paul sound sweeter. It’s like butter on the ears.

Moby Grape: Grape Jam (Columbia, 1968)

If you bought the album Wow, this was part of the package. When they were recording Wow, they took a day where they just jammed. 

As a young guy trying to learn blues rock licks, I listened more to Grape Jam than Wow. It starts with a song called Never, which I think inspired Led Zeppelin’s Since I’ve Been Loving You. The album’s hard to find. You can get used copies on Amazon.

Small Faces: Small Faces (Deram, 1966) 

I’m selecting this for one cut – You Need Loving, which Led Zeppelin turned into Whole Lotta Love. The Small Faces credit it to Willie Dixon. They were a sloppy band but in a magnificent way, like the Stones. The slop is the beauty. 

Steve Marriott was an incredible singer and when he left, they lost something. I think it’s overlooked, but I’m not one to judge popular opinion.

Paul Butterfield: In My Own Dream (Elektra, 1968)

Paul Butterfield is well known over here, but nobody mentions that record – if anyone is gonna mention an album from that era, they’ll mention Better Days

In My Own Dream is a forgotten album that needs to be listened to again. It’s where he started to experiment with songs and got away from 12-bar blues, and on the title track he sings his ass off.

Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills (Atlantic, 1970)

Some critics will say I’m stretching it to call Stephen Stills a blues-rocker, but there are a couple of cuts here, like Old Times Good Times – which has an awesome blues lick and none other than Jimi Hendrix on guitar – and Black Queen, which is Stephen Stills doing a country-blues acoustic thing that’s just amazing. 

A friend played it to me, but I don’t know anyone else who has it. It’s overlooked, probably because his work with Crosby, Stills & Nash was selling mega-millions.

Frankie Miller - The Rock (Chrysalis, 1975)

He does the original of Ain’t Got No Money, which some people would say is rock‘n’roll, but he sings it like a blues singer. I assume Frankie Miller was more popular in the United Kingdom, but if you say to someone over here, Ain’t Got No Money, they’ll go, oh, Bob Seger

No, fucking Bob Seger didn’t write it and if you hear the guy who did sing it, you won’t listen to Bob Seger’s version again. It beats the shit outta Bob Seger!

Buddy Guy and Junior Wells - Buddy Guy And Junior Wells Play The Blues (Atlantic, 1972)

I’ve never heard Buddy Guy sound better. There’s a song called A Man Of Many Words where he just goes off for five minutes, playing this crazy solo, where he plays faster than Alvin Lee but also has these weird intervals and screeches and stuff. 

I always thought, Jimi Hendrix would’ve listened to this cut and thought, ‘Holy shit – this is what I wish I could play like’. It’s astounding.

Walter Trout's Ordinary Madness is out now.