Personnel: Walter Trout (vocals, guitar, mandolin, harmonica); Jon Cleary (keyboards); Kenny Aronoff (drums).
Audio Mixer: John Porter.
Recording information: House Of Blues Studios, Encino (03/08/2010-03/18/2010).
Photographer: Jon Trout.
On what is billed as his 20th solo album, journeyman blues-rock guitarist Walter Trout seems to be intent on establishing himself as something more than a worthy successor to an older generation of blues originators, as well as a bevy of their better-known successors all old enough to be his older brothers. He has written all 12 songs himself and printed the lyrics to them in the CD booklet. Especially at first, his bid to be a singer/songwriter shows promise, with the self-deprecating and reflective "May Be a Fool" and "Open Book" leading things off, and, in fourth position, the spiritually oriented title song, "Common Ground," a prayer for universal understanding. Even on these tracks, however, the guitar solos stand out, and as the album goes on the songs tend to seem more and more like platforms on which Trout builds those solos. Stomps, shuffles, and ballads vary the tempos somewhat, and the styles range from country-blues ("Hudson Had Help") to Southern rock in the Allman Brothers Band mold ("Danger Zone") and Chicago blues ("Wrapped Up in the Blues"). But the tunes are predictable and the lyrics only serviceable; what matters is Trout's Fender Stratocaster, to which he pays tribute in the lilting "Song for My Guitar." He plays with authority, but at any given moment suggests any one of a number of his immediate predecessors, including Keith Richards, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter, Duane Allman, and so on. That tends to make him a more impressive figure when he's playing right in front of you in a club or theater than when he's heard on a recording. ~ William Ruhlmann