Walter Trout – Battle Scars (2015)

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Walter Trout’s When the Blues Came Calling, released last year as he battled a potentially fatal liver ailment, was the sound of someone raging against his fate. In keeping, now that Trout has recovered, you might expect the follow up to strike a sunnier pose, to move into happy cliche.

Not with a title like Battle Scars. Instead, Walter Trout makes a series of brave forays into the most personal places of mortal fear, into the moments when — as his liver failed, his body wasted away, and he became unable even to identify his loved ones — the darkness enveloped him.

There is a newfound energy here, something flintier and truer about Walter Trout. It’s clear that he’s taken this miraculous rebound, keyed by a May 2014 liver transplant, as a sign to redouble his efforts. Few are the records in which he played with more focus, determination and searing power. And yet, Battle Scars lives up to its name as an examination not of the contentment that follows a long-hoped-for discharge but of the awful passageway which brings us there.

His crushingly fatalistic “Almost Gone,” this album’s opening cut, makes that clear. Later, Trout offers “Omaha,” a harrowing tale of someone simply waiting for death to close its fist around his heart. He brings you so close to the visceral terror of waiting for a liver transplant at the Nebraska Medical Center that it’s almost uncomfortable. Meanwhile, “My Ship Came In” drills to the bottom of regret. Even “Gonna Live Again,” a tune ostensibly about making it to the other side, can’t help but ask a difficult question for any one who emerges from such a trauma while others don’t: “Why me, and not him?”

And yet, as with When the Blues Came Calling, there is an impressive show of strength about Battle Scars, a resiliency and sense of purpose that moves beyond expectation. Walter Trout, even after everything he’s been through, is still pushing back — hard.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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