When Walter Trout released Battle Scars in 2015 it was a cathartic experience written with tears coming down his face. The intense album documented some of the very same struggles that bluesmen (and women) have been singing about for decades. After such a personal project that dealt with his own mortality amongst other things, it was time to return to the lighter side of blues music and time to have some fun. As the Joe Cocker track says 'I'll get by with a little help from my friends' so it makes sense that part of that continued healing process would mean enlisting the help of some of Trout's peers, friends and those younger musos who revere his work.
We're All In This Together in many ways is an unofficial sequel to 2006's Full Circle album. Rather than simply title the song Full Circle 2, Trout felt it was important to give a positive message of collaboration, unity and friendship in not only the camaraderie of the musical sphere but in the wider world too; especially given the unstable nature of the planet. As a result, the album is a tidal wave of upbeat blues tracks, defiant grooves and a joyous celebration of a much-loved genre featuring some of the hottest doyen's of blues including Joe Bonamassa, John Nemeth, Charlie Mussclewhite, Robben Ford, Joe Louis Walker and Edgar Winter for starters.
As you'd expect the standard of musicianship on offer is in a stratosphere all of its own. The songs may often be traditional blues structures, but it's in the solos that the tracks really come to life in an explosive display of bravura.
Gonna Hurt Like Hell with Kenny Wayne Shepherd is a cautionary tale about quick thrills and cleverly styles itself in exactly the manner it warns against. It's a rousing and impassioned blues shuffle that will leave you spent on the floor by the end of nearly 4 minutes of sassy attitude and indistinguishable guitar trade offs.
Ain't Going Back leads on from the opener with the themes of moving forward and making the right choices. Although it's still personal it's in no way down beat, in fact, it's a rapturous celebration of being alive and being given a second chance. Zydeco king Sonny Landreth lends his adroit slide playing to the track, the vocals are steadfast, almost pleading and desperate in places adding to the gravitas of the song. The Other Side Of The Pillow follows more traditional blues subject matters of broken and troubled relationships and is delivered with sturdy proclamations that are the fabric of the album. The tainted opening lines "I'm gonna make love to another woman, because you made love to another man" were taken from Trout's friend Richard T Bear but they've been given more weight due to the terrific melancholic groove, reminiscent of early Fleetwood Mac, that engulfs the track, morphing it into a stunning statement of modern blues. How do you follow that? - You get together with Mike Zito, the former guitar player from one of the most soulful bands in the world - The Royal Southern Brotherhood. She Listens to the Blackbird Sing is a beautiful southern song in the vein of the Allman Brothers. It's got everything from harmonies, keys and dual guitar with a lot of feel and warmth. Speaking of the Allmans Warren Haynes joins for The Sky is Crying. The howling guitar work is terrific here, if the sky was crying to this raw blues track it would be a monsoon.
Eric Gales changes the feel of the album by adding a funk overtone on Somebody Going Down. Gales' multiple influences from Prince to Hendrix shine through on his soloing which ranges from shredding to intricate blues overlays. The legendary Edgar Winter pops up for the seductive She Steals My Heart Away which features a very sexy sax and Trout's eldest son Jon also makes an appearance on Do You See Me At All?
If you think the album is sounding like a venerable who's who of the blues world already, you ain't seen nothing yet as Randy Bachman jumps on for Got Nothin' Left. It has a ring of ZZ Top to its riffology, but it's also a full bodied blues offensive with a torrent of muscular guitars that will leave you salivating for more.
The explosive finale sees Trout team up with his old Bluesbreakers band mate John Mayall on the acoustic and rootsy Blues for Jimmy T. The title track with Joe Bonamassa brings yet another two icons together. It's a ballsy little blues number with just as much energy and fervour delivered in the music and sentiment as the other tracks: in fact, the evangelising guitars demand so much from the listener even a non-believer will be converted to the blues by the end.
The songs may take the form of traditional blues but the musicians all bring their own flavour to the album, hitting the mark with every single track. When these luminaries play their own distinctive playing style complements the other musicians approach perfectly and is an exhilarating listen to. The production is so tight and clean that they could easily be stood on a stage together, jamming away. Despite the big names on the record, there is no hubris or rivalry between the musicians, just a group of talented performers feeding off contagious enthusiasm and drawing inspiration. It's all about the music – just as it should be.
Groupie Rating 5/5