A labor of love is a labor of love, even if it's nearly 16 years after the fact.
That's the takeaway for blues great Walter Trout, who finally got to release "Luther's Blues: A Tribute to Luther Allison" earlier this month.
Trout had wanted to record a tribute album to his friend and collaborator Allison, who died in 1997 of a brain tumor. But the project kept getting postponed by the head of Allison's record label, who was also the singer-guitarist's former road manager.
"I finally figured out it wasn't that he was avoiding it, it was gonna cause him a lot of pain," Trout said in a cellphone interview from Tennessee this week. "I guess enough time has passed."
Allison, who was inducted posthumously into the Blues Hall of Fame the year after his death, was long overdue for a tribute, Trout said.
"It's hard for me to even fathom. There's 283 Albert King tributes and eleventy-seven Stevie Ray tributes and all this stuff. I kept waiting. 'Is someone going to call attention to this incredible artist that we had and that we lost?' " Trout asked. "I thought the guy was one of the all-time greatest ever, and I'd still in this genre rather listen to him than just about anybody."
Trout said he'll probably play five or six Luther Allison songs next week for the opening night of the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. Former Allison collaborator James Solberg came out of retirement last weekend to play along with Trout at a show, and Trout said there is a possibility Solberg will show up July Fourth in LeClaire Park.
Bernard Allison, Luther's son, is the only guest performer on the tribute album. Trout said the singer's family wholeheartedly endorsed the project.
Trout said he learned a lot from Allison on and off the stage.
"I learned that you'd better be honest in your music and in your playing. You'd better mean every note. Don't have a persona, don't have a facade," he said. "With Luther, I learned that in this genre of the blues, you'd really better be honest and mean it. There's no room for bull ... in this stuff, no room for posing."
Trout, 62, is nursing a couple of broken ribs after tripping on a sidewalk about a month ago and landing on his chest.
He'll likely stay seated during his performances in the near future, he said.
"When I'm jumping around and the Stratocaster hits my rib, it hurts," Trout said. "As my wife said, 'Walter, they're not coming to watch you dance.'"