Bluesman Walter Trout is a survivor. In 2014, he received a liver transplant and by 2015, he performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London. His 2019 album, Survivor Blues, spent two weeks on the Billboard Blues Chart at number one and remained in the top 10 for 12 weeks. A lesser artist might have taken that acclaim and enjoyed it, but Trout is not content with what is. “I wanted to make Survivor Blues to show my blues pedigree and my history of playing this music,” he said. “But that’s not all I am. I’m also a songwriter. Of course, everything I do is based in the blues and I’ll never turn my back on it. Ordinary Madness (new album) is a blues-rock album, but it’s also an evolution of my songwriting. The artists I respect most are the ones who seem to be fearless and push the envelope.”
Trout began his journey as a musician in New Jersey, where the young guitarist was drawn to maverick songwriters like the Beatles, Dylan and Neil Young’s Crazy Horse. In 1974, he moved to California to be a sideman for greats like John Lee Hooker and Percy Mayfield and then became the lead guitarist for Canned Heat. From 1984-1989, he was the lead guitarist in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and then formed the Walter Trout Band. All along the way, he was crafting songs. Now he has Ordinary Madness, which is not, he says “Survivor Blues Volume Two.” “I dug in deep with regard to the craft of songwriting,” he said.
For five decades, Walter Trout’s music has been a reminder to listeners that they are not alone. He has written about his personal tragedies, and now, as the world struggles with a tragedy that has touched everyone, he has taken 11 searingly honest songs that bring his fans even closer. “There’s a lot of extraordinary madness going on right now,” he has said of the COVID 19 crisis. “This album started because I was dealing with the flaws and weaknesses inside me. But it ended up being about everyone.”
The album was completed just as the United States was shutting down and his themes of shared troubles couldn’t have come at a better time. The idea for the album was born as he scanned his social media feeds and noted his fans’ messages about how he and his wife inspired them. He was touched, but he knew his story was far from perfect. He has been open about ongoing struggles with mental health and he spent recent tours soothing himself by scribbling down thoughts and feelings. It was only later that he realized he had written the most honest lyric-sheet of his career and he felt he had an opportunity to let fans share and identify with him.
“Everyone is dealing with something,” he said. “I’m no different from anybody else. Ordinary Madness doesn’t mean you’re gonna end up in a mental institution. It’s just about being human. It’s common humanity.” Ordinary Madness is that rare mix of a work that is deeply personal and completely universal. It has a relevance today that even Trout didn’t imagine at the beginning.
“As the lyric says in (the cut) ‘Up Above My Sky,’ sometimes you to have to see through the darkness to the light,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back out there, meet the people at shows, hug them and pose for a photo. And I’m really looking forward to playing these songs live, because I think this album speaks to these times.”