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LIVE AT THE RYMAN

John Butler Trio

with Monica Heldal

Thursday, November 13, 2014
7:30 PM
$29.50 - Day of Show: $32.50
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The contradictions in John Butler are evident, and, despite his magnificently successful career (with number one albums in Australia and sell-out tours) his is a troubled soul. One of the most successful recording artists Australia has ever produced and a musician whose reputation has begun to rock the waters of both Europe and America, Butler is nevertheless a man on the edge, poised like a beautiful suicide. Where will he go next? Up or down? Despite the tensions within the man and his music the new album makes his future trajectory abundantly clear.

Arising from a series of agenda-free jams in Butler’s studio ‘The Compound’ in Fremantle, (Australia) the album took a mere 20 days to record and, though beautifully structured in sonic terms, there is a rawness and honesty to the album that reflects the brevity of its laying down. The songs have a wide-open, semi-improvised feel. The crisp and beautifully spare production of Jan Skubiszewski accentuates the sense of limitless space: the drums (courtesy of the aptly named Nicky Bomba) kick with dub explosions, while the bass (‘Lord’ Byron Luiters) goes on inspired transient walkabouts. Butler’s voice, free of the ‘anger’ that has dogged him for so long, now soars with both melancholy and plangent purity.  “Wings are Wide” evokes rainforests: it is drenched in dizzying guitar loops in which the listener is enmeshed and lifted timelessly elsewhere. “Spring to Come” could be a classic, Butler’s acrylic fingernails plucking more of their extraordinary patterns. “Blame it on Me” is a cocky peacock-strut juxtaposed with dark references to apocalyptic ‘heavy times’. “Young and Wild” has the simple beauty of a song - a down home-country feel offset by the gorgeous shadowing of female vocalist Ainslie Wills. “How You Sleep at Night” is a hypnotically anthemic piece featuring the ferocious drumming of new man Grant Gerathy; Bomba having jumped ship (albeit amicably) to front his own Melbourne Ska Orchestra. The synth-anchored “You’re Free” sounds like its title: it is as if the composer, haunted by righteous ire, has taken flight, escaping earthly confines but not flying too close to the sun. New single “Only One” shows a new maturity in pop craftsmanship. The quiet/loud dynamic is beautifully exploited yet again. A simple three note refrain and rolling storm-cloud drums establishes a minor key mood: a place of ‘castles built out of sand’ and ‘something haunting’ the protagonist. But then the chorus erupts with steel drum euphoria transporting the listener to what sounds like Africa — a third world of ecstatic being. That is the JB trick par excellence: the shift from fireside ballad to communal dance, from private to public, from doubt to assertion.

Livin' In The City - John Butler Trio - Official Video