Brian Butler's RESTLESS STREET
Reviewed by Mark Dalton
Brian Butler is one hell of a blues guitar player. Has been for many years. I've got a tape of Butler playing "Sweet Little Angel"
at Pig Alley around 1976 that is as intense and authoritative as anything I've heard Robert Cray to do date, for example.
But right from the beginning Brian wasn't limiting himself to just playing the blues. The Brian Butler Band of the late 1970's did
a wide variety of tunes, ranging from Delbert McClinton-style soul to the honky-tonk country of Johnny Horton. Butler also had
ambition as a songwriter very early on, and his love for acoustic music, be it blues, folk or country, was quite plain as well.
In the years since, Brian has played in a variety of formats, eventually setting into being an excellent man-and-his-guitar single
act, doing a lot of original singer-songwriter material and becoming a staple on the Northwest summer festival circuit.
He also had occasional forays out as the Brian Butler Band, frequently as a guitar-bass-drums trio, here featuring Bob Conger
on drums and Robert Shangrow on the bass. Butler has written contemporary rock songs, blues songs, and country-style songs
that work in this band format, as well as penning his own acoustic single material.
All the varied strands of this complex artist come together on Restless Street, a CD that has been available for about
a year now. There is at least one tune on here, "Too Many Trips", that ought to be playing on every adult contemporary station
in the country! This is a perfectly crafted, wryly humorous blues tale of a guy whose wife gets a fat job that keeps her on the run.
Suddenly our hero is no longer the primary bread-winner, the long lingering mornings of lovemaking they used to enjoy are
out the window, and he's felling like a chauffer as he drives baby to and from the airport. I picture the guy with hair in
a ponytail, still wearing his check wool northwesterner shirt and work boots, vaguely uncomfortable at the wheel of
a late-model car - first new car they ever bought, right? - his woman in a tailored business suit and razor-cut hair beside
him with her laptop and briefcase on the back seat. I know this story will sound familiar to many musicians out there - it
certainly hit home with me!
There are many other excellent tunes on the CD. Butler's tunes have a sophisticated, jazzy feel to them these days -
a little like Mose Allison at times. "Been There Done That", with its witty lyric and laid back, mellow groove is a good
example. An acoustic treatment of Big Bill Broonzy's "Louise", is a standout among the handful of covers here. Butler's
vocals, which once had a tendency to be a little too earnest, have matured in both sound and delivery, and here sound
sensual and smoky. It's back to the country on the following cut, "Big Fire Now, " which would feel right at home on a Jackson
Brown or J.D. Souther album. The album concluded with a five-minute-plus showstopper called "Storm Warning", with a Louisianna
feel and some tasty accordion by Nova Devonie.
If you are a fan of uptown, laid back, bluesy, semi-acoustic music featuring good picking, good singing, and clever,
well-crafted songs, you're likely to dig these sides. If you've seen Brian Butler perform, and you like what you've seen,
you're going to like this set for sure, because what you see is what you get here - with some fine players on board and good,
clean, uncomplicated production to get it on disc. Check Brian and this CD out. He is a Seattle original, a local treasure
who has kept right on going for close to 30 years now doing what he does and getting better at it as he goes.
Check Brian's Web site at [www.brianbutlerblues.com] for more info.
-Mark Dalton, Washington Blues Society Bluesletter, January 2001