Today’s news bleeds with horror and disgust: grieving parents, grandstanding politicians dancing atop dead children. An administration aggressively preventing mothers from feeding their children and equally determined to destroy the American consumer in the false god Mother Gaia’s name. Death and suffering in Ukraine. Davos-visiting globalists actively auditioning to LARP as the Antichrist. These are the times that try men’s souls.
These are also the times when we need art more than ever. Pick one or more methods: music, literature, painting, acting, sculpture, dance, or what have you. They offer blessed relief from both commonplace and chaotic life moments. They remind us there is life beyond the mundane and the horrific.
This does not come without a cost, one far greater than maybe getting a blister on your little finger or maybe getting a blister on your thumb. There is a reason why so many in the arts throughout the centuries have veered into, if not succumbed to, madness’ assorted permutations — chemicals, suicide, and other self-destructive behaviors. Those who walk the artistic high wire, balancing embracing the creative gift of a loving Creator while doing whatever is necessary to avoid slipping into the unavoidable madness occurring when imperfect man intimately contacts the perfect God, do so at their own risk. Some, however, seem to have found the balance and have lived whole, rich lives without crashing and burning long before their time.
Which leads to Robin Trower.
In the 1970s, an era marked by music fans who greatly preferred musicians to be proficient on their instrument of choice, British rock/blues guitarist Trower briefly held the guitar hero spotlight. He was no showman; Trower let his Fender Stratocaster do the talking so much that his bass player, the late James Dewar, did all the singing. Nevertheless, Trower packed arenas on the strength of both his playing and, in the case of his best-known album (1974’s Bridge of Sighs), equally strong material consisting of both fire and vision-inducing contemplative slow pieces, each built on and punctuated by Trower’s mastery of heavy blues technique and tone. Although Trower’s star descended during the latter 1970s, he never seemed to mind, happily following his muse, releasing a steady stream of albums, and regularly touring for the faithful.
Trower’s latest effort, No More Worlds to Conquer, came out in May of 2022. It is one of his strongest sets in many years. After a few albums where he did most everything, including the singing, Trower has again turned over vocal responsibilities to his bass player, a position now held by Richard Watts. Watts’ grainy tenor adds a touch of smoldering funk to the mix, an element longtime Trower fans are familiar with from his late 1970s releases Caravan to Midnight and In City Dreams. The album’s overall mood is late-night reflective; music made for times when one mulls over life’s deeper elements.
Trower is 78. While showing no signs of slipping into latter-day lethargy, the new album focuses more on taste than haste. There are no high-speed moments here. Yet even with its preponderance of slow grooves, No More Worlds to Conquer never drags. Its songs are unfailingly melodic, providing the perfect backdrop for Trower’s expressive guitar playing. His playing is rich in his singular tone, setting aside the heavy wah-wah and distortion of his youth in favor of depth and texture.
Trower is not everyone’s cup of tea. One can easily imagine the average Dua Lipa fan recoiling in horror at the sight and sound of this elderly man who hasn’t had a Top Ten album in 46 years playing a guitar style presently quite out of fashion. But for those with ears to hear and a heart attuned to the soul, Robin Trower’s No More Worlds to Conquer provides a welcome tonic for the madness currently afflicting us all.