January 8, 2008

Evolution of ... The John Butler Trio

The image “http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2200/2178531666_d773f3e889.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

The John Butler Trio first came to my attention three years ago, in 2004, shortly after they released their second album Sunrise Over Sea, and the song Zebra.
Hailing from Australia, the group has a very unique sound that makes them stand out in the folk/acoustic rock scene. They've done really well for themselves over there, with numerous awards and high selling albums.

Their first major album was called Three, and introduced the group's first sound in 2001 - John Butler's drawling voice, their guitarwork and lyrics. It would be fairly easy to compare these guys to the sort of hippy-rock that their image suggests, but it goes a bit beyond that to my ears with this album. The songs here have some really good guitar solo work that really sets them apart from most acts.

Media - John Butler Trio

Their next album was released in 2004 to more airplay and attention. Entitled Sunrise Over Sea, along with an EP released in the second year (What You Want), this album held a progression in sound from their first album. More contained energy is apparent right from the start with Treat Yo Mama, while the energy fades to some more delicate ballads. The result is a fantastic album that's tight, high quality and in the case of some songs, a departure in style to what's probably best described as country-funk. The entire album has a sound of it's own, which is what attracted my attention in the first place with their lead single, Zebra, and with songs that have kept me listening. There's also an improvement in their guitar work, which is apparent when you listen to Mist.

Company Sin - John Butler Trio
Something's Gotta Give - John Butler Trio

The band came back last year in 2007 with a pretty good follow up called Grand National, which, like Sunrise Over Sea, received quite a bit of airplay on the radio. This album is similar, with the same off-beat sound and fantastic guitar work that characterized Sunrise, but with a sound that feels a little softer, restrained and a bit more for the mainstream audience. It's a good album, but retreading over ground that Sunrise broke through already, which isn't really a bad thing at all. Grand National is a fantastic third album, and isn't a direct copy of either albums. It's got the same tight instrumentation and vocals, with lyrics that are more directed, such as in Good Excuse.

Better Than - John Butler Trio

I almost had a chance to see these guys right after Sunrise Over Sea was released, when they came to Burlington. Tickets were $3, and must have sold out really quickly, because I missed out. I'm sure they'll be back in the US sometime soon with some new material.