If ever the phrase "new lease of life" applied to a musician, it applies to Walter Trout. Since his his life-or-death liver transplant in 2014, the blues legend has been on a roll, releasing a series of critically-acclaimed, avowedly personal albums. The latest, Ordinary Madness, is out this week.
While 2015's Battle Scars and last year's Survivor Blues may have directly addressed Trouts's own battles, Ordinary Madness casts the net wider.
"There’s a lot of extraordinary madness going on right now,” says Trout. “This album started because I was dealing with the flaws and weakness inside me. But it ended up being about everyone.”
Recorded at the home studio of Doors legend Robby Krieger, Ordinary Madness finds Trout in stellar form, ably backed by bandmates Michael Leasure (drums), Johnny Griparic (bass) and Teddy ‘Zig Zag’ Andreadis (keyboards).
“What a great place that is to record, man,” says Trout. “The whole place is full of vintage gear, and it’s all there for you, whatever you want. The keyboard that Ray Manzarek used in The Doors – it’s just fucking sitting there. I remember, on the rhythm track for OK Boomer, Michael Dumas, who runs the studio, comes walking in and says: ‘Here’s the SG that Robby used in The Doors – wanna try this?’"
With a musical history that includes time well spent with John Lee Hooker, Canned Heat and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Trout has a lifetime of experience to draw from, but the influences he's drawn on for Ordinary Madness cam sometimes surprise. Take Wanna Dance, a blast of crunching rock'n'roll that pays tribute to Trout's wife and manager, Marie, and sounds a little like another longtime guitar hero.
"Musically, I was thinking of Neil Young and Crazy Horse," says Trout, "with nasty distorted guitars – although my son said, ‘the solo sounds more like Neil Van Halen’. Lyrically, there’s some confessional stuff, with lines like, ‘I’ve been the victim of desires that only brought me down’. I guess it’s saying, ‘I’m a little fucked-up here, but come on, baby, let’s not worry about the world. Let’s get past our mental states and live life to the fullest’.”
At the other end of the spectrum are The Sun Is Going Down, a song about dealing with ageing, and Up Above My Sky, with the kind of cinematic potency that brings prime Pink Floyd to mind. “I told Marie that I had a dream I was playing a song called Up Above My Sky, but that I didn’t know what to do with it," says Trout. "Twenty minutes later, she came back and said, ‘Here are the lyrics.’"