Robin Trower does not mind taking a peek in the rearview mirror every now and then.
What fuels his engine and keeps his eyes glued to the road ahead is the drive to be a better musician and improve on what he has learned throughout his career in the business.
Becoming a stronger player, Trower said during a phone interview I conducted with the 71-year-old guitarist earlier this week, is a mentality he brought to the table for his latest studio effort, Where Are You Going To... Trower said he went into the process thinking he was going record a more straightforward, up-tempo rock 'n' roll album.
What came out of him ended up falling closer in line with Trower's love of the blues, albeit with a slightly harder edge.
"The bottom line for me is the guitar playing and the guitar parts have to be as soulful as I can make them. That is what I'm searching for the whole time," Trower said earlier this week during a phone interview. "Every note has to be soulful for me or it doesn't get in."
The former axe-man performed Friday night at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe. Tonight, Trower will headline the Wilbur Theatre in Boston. He returns to Pennsylvania on April 29 for a concert in Erie.
The bluesy underbelly of Where Are You Going To... is, in many respects, a full circle return for the Trower. He recalled hearing B.B. King's version of Lowell Fulson's "3 o'clock Blues" in the 1960s and the feeling that coursed through his body. (The song was covered by King and released in 1952.) Soon, Trower was immersing himself in the music of the genre's most influential players.
"There are elements that are primal to (the blues) that everyone can respond to. At its very best, and I'm talking only about the very best, is truly great music, truly great art," he said, referncing blues greats B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. "That's why it feeds into so much music, that feeds into what I do. The benchmark set by those people is so high. It inspires me."
Trower formed his first band in 1962. By 1966, Trower had joined high school classmate Gary Brooker'snew band Procol Harum. The group scored a hit a year later with the song "A Whiter Shade of Pale."
Trower left Procol Harum in 1971. Two years later, Trower embarked on his solo career and formed of the Robin Trower Band. Trower's 1975 album For Earth Below, which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Turning to his various collaborations over the years, including former Cream bassist Jack Bruce --with whom he recorded two studio albums -- and, most recently, harmonica player Paul Jones, Trower said he would have loved to work with one of his own idols, James Brown, if given the chance. (Brown died in 2006.) "All of the people I would like to work with are dead and gone," Trower said.
Trower is not ready to retire or put his guitar down for good. He is excited and optimistic about the future has in store for him. "I like to think my best work is still ahead. I'm looking forward, not back," Trower said. "The engine that drives the project is to make the best you can make."