The John Butler Trio - Flesh and Blood
The famous hometown folk trio are back with a response to 2010’s April Uprising. Their latest effort, released Friday the 10th of February carries on exactly where their discography leads them to; Folk tinged rock with influences from blues guitar virtuosos and life, man. Flesh & Blood is very focused on Butler’s famous guitar playing, and the songs seem built around this and his voice, with few moments where either bass or percussion take front and center. This of course, is welcome for the music consuming public who have fallen in love with John Butler, but I do wish his fantastic band mates were given a little more room to shine, it is The John Butler Trio after all.
Of course, these are still beautifully crafted sincere songs, and you can’t really take anything away from the fact that John Butler is the only constant member of the group. The song writing team have managed to keep a fresh sound, with some songs branching into less radio friendly territory bridging out into atmospheric sounds, with of course a few great pop songs in there.
Lead single ‘Only One’ which was released late last year is in my opinion nowhere near the strongest song of the album, however it’s chorus is undeniably suited to the warmer months, and so it is a good song to entice people into the larger body of work that is Flesh and Blood.
The album as a whole is no doubt a good listen, ranging from the trademark folky fingerpicking of album opener ‘Spring to Come’, through to gritty funk of ‘Livin’ in the City’ where John opens up on the ol’ electric guitar into a Hendrix-esque crescendo; And this occurs over the first two songs.
‘Devil Woman’ and ‘Wings are Wilde’ will have to fight it out for the LP highlight, the former features great blues inspired work, on organ, guitar and drums which also leaves space for Butler to show off a little versatility in his vocal work. ‘Wings are Wilde’ seems the most instrumentally minimalist of the lot, basic acoustic rhythm work over the backing bass and drums, going off into the occasional flare with some great phased acoustic guitar work. More atmospheric than most John Butler songs, it deals with the loss of Butler’s grandmother, and contains some great heartfelt song writing and a sombre tone.
‘Blame It On Me’ heads into almost reggae territory; A kind of fusion between itself and more traditional blues featuring some great down tempo drumming. In fact this is the only song which really allows the rhythm section room to breathe, with fantastic results and Butler’s background picking just in the background enough that it is evident, but also not. That is, until his noisy electric solo.
Lyrically, Butler’s usually politically charged agenda, which sometimes did seem a little too literal anyway, has been replaced with songs about love and love lost, as well as the aforementioned song about his late-grandmother. This is quite a change, especially considering that 2010’s April Uprising album was all centred around the oppressed Bulgarian (part of Butler’s heritage) population during the, you guessed it, April Uprising in the Ottoman Empire. This, coupled with much of his back catalogue and constant environmental work is quite a difference to ‘Bullet Girl’ which cries “Yeah you are the bullet girl, and you know I’ve been your gun”.
The John Butler Trio have created an album which ticks all of the boxes for a John Butler Trio album. However, they have definitely hit a more genuine benchmark and gone are a lot of the pop elements which used to permeate their music, and although they have not gone ‘full-roots’ have found a middle ground where they are able to explore them whilst keeping their signature sound.