“It’s what keeps me going, being creative. The work, the joy of creating new pieces of music and recording, it keeps me young!” says rock-guitar legend Robin Trower, 72, during a phone call from a Tucson hotel. “I’m always striving to move forward, always reaching for something that’s just ahead.”
Is he ever satisfied?
“Never completely satisfied,” he adds in his soft British accent, sounding chipper. “There’s always something more that you think could have been there. But you do your best.”
Known for his bluesy post-Hendrix sound, Trower’s fretwork exhibits a lot of lyricism - he can coax heartfelt expression from nearly every bent note. His newly released 30th album, “Time and Emotion” (V12 Records), is a solid set of original blues-rock numbers that evoke Trower’s signature economic solos and lush, warm tone. The album includes the scrappy “The Land of Plenty,” the soul-inflected “If You Believe in Me” and several ballads that capture the beauty of his melodic playing at its best.
“Although I’m a rock ’n’ roll player, I’m always trying to make my music as soulful as possible,” Trower explains. “There are songs on the new album that sum that up, I think. [That soulfulness] comes from within - it’s the gift I was born with, I guess, to be able to create music with some sort of depth to it.”
Trower’s music reflects the playing of artists he admired early in life, including rockabilly legend Gene Vincent, and especially blues-guitar great B.B. King.
“B.B. King’s music was a real turning point for me,” he says. “It’s quite simple music, but it’s so deep. After hearing him, I started to aspire to make my guitar sound like a human voice. James Brown’s “Live at the Apollo” was another huge influence.”
But it was Jimi Hendrix who made the most lasting impact.
In some ways, Trower is the missing link between Hendrix and a generation inspired by his rock virtuosity, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and other similar axe-slingers. At a time when Vaughan was still playing R&B and blues covers in roadhouses with the Texas bar-band Triple Threat, Trower already had established himself as a Hendrix-influenced tour de force on a par with Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Peter Green and other British blues-rock sensations. Between 1973 and ’77, Trower released four gold albums, including the 1974 classic-rock masterwork “Bridge of Sighs.”
He’d also enjoyed commercial success with the ’60s pop band Procol Harum (one of the progenitors of prog-rock). Known even then as a powerhouse guitar player, the London native witnessed Hendrix’s playing firsthand in 1970 when Procol Harum shared the bill with the American rocker at two concerts in England and Germany.
“Hendrix got booed at one of those shows,” Trower recalls. “I guess the fans were disappointed he hadn’t set his guitar on fire.”
After Hendrix died in 1970 of an apparent drug overdose, Trower and Procol Harum lyricist Keith Reid wrote the tribute “Song for a Dreamer,” which was included on the band’s “Broken Barricades” album.
Trower left Procol Harum the following year to start his own power trio.
“Hendrix was a phenomenon and a huge influence on me,” he says. “I was drawn to the fluidity of his playing - no rock guitarist had ever exhibited that to such a degree before. And he was such a soulful player. There was a touch of genius there. I don’t think anyone could deny that.”
Robin Trower Live at the Mystic
When? Thursday, May 25, at 8:30 p.m.
Where? The Mystic Theater, 21 Petaluma Blvd. N.
How much? $60
Information? Mystictheatre.com; (707) 765-2121