Walter Trout’s Emotional Rescue

“GUITARISTS OFTEN ASK ME IF I PLAY IN diatonic or pentatonic,” says blues rocker Walter Trout, whose recent release is The Outsider [Megaforce/Provogue], “and I tell them that I used to use hair tonic and then I drank too much gin and tonic and then I went catatonic. I don’t understand all that stuff. All I know is that when I put my guitar on, I go into an emotional state, and I do my best to communicate those emotions to an audience through that guitar.” Trout’s penchant for stylistic cross-pollination often flummoxes those who like music filed in strict categories, but, whatever he does, it’s always balls out and drenched in passion.

“I’m aware of that weird ‘debate’ between an Al Di Meola quote and a Kenny Neal quote in Guitar Player [July ’08] about whether you can say more with 10,000 notes or one note,” says Trout. “Well, I think you can express emotion in a lot of ways, but every single note you do play should come from down in your gut, and not from your head. Technique only exists to communicate feeling. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix weren’t shredders, but you saw into their souls when they were playing. When you heard them perform, you knew everything you needed to know about them. That approach isn’t about how fast you can play, or how spectacular your gear is, and, to me, that’s the beauty of music—it isn’t about impressing people, it’s about moving them.”