Flesh & Blood review by John Butler Trio

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  • Released: Feb 7, 2014
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 7.7 Good
  • Users' score: 7.1 (15 votes)
John Butler Trio: Flesh & Blood

Sound — 8
When I heard there was a new JBT album coming out the only word to describe my anticipation was that I was anxious. For this album there is yet another change in the bands lineup. Nicky Bomba (drums/percussion) has been replaced by Grant Gerathy. I was a big fan of Nicky and loved the sound he brought to the band through the pans. It will be missed. However Grant brings a new dynamic to the band. The sound production of the drums on "Bullet Girl" is fantastic! (Actually reminds me of "Like Toy Soldiers" by Eminem).

Byron Luiters remains on bass and backing vocal duties. His high pitch harmonies are great as always, best example being on their first single "Only One." As for John... The Maton 12 string is gone on this album and replaced with a 6 string. Also, the majority of songs are played with standard tuning. Whereas songs from their previous album would be considered anthemic and be crowd pleasers, I don't see many songs from this album of the same design. 

On whole the production quality is fine. Nothing radically different from previous albums as the band records at Butler's own studio. The production does succeed in bringing out each song as individuals yet complimentary of each other. This allows for some variety in sound such as folksy, ballads, garage jam band sounds etc.

Lyrics — 7
The first track "Spring to Come" is a straight up folk song that took John 5 years to find the right lyrics for. Next is "Livin' in the City." John says the song is about a guy who managed to get himself made yet still finds himself unsatisfied. The song is funky and its speed certainly suits the concept! 

Track 5 "Devil Woman" and track 6 "Blame It on Me" is where things start to change. John says they were a product of jamming sessions. Track 7 is "Only One." It's a very pleasant song to hear and includes one of my favourite lines from the album, "Did they tell you that you can't fly? Did they clip your wings when you did try?" Track 8 "Young and Wild" is a ballad about a couple who were in a relationship dominated by drugs. John says he took inspiration from friends and their struggles for this song. 

Track 9 "Wings Are Wide" is a song about his grandmother who passed away and her going to see his grandfather. A sweet concept, yet I didn't find it too intimate through the lyrics. Track 10 "How You Sleep at Night" was actually altered very near the end when it was time to record as John dreamt of the song in a different way to which he had been originally playing it. Finally track 11 "You're Free." A spaced out closing. 

I saved my favourite for last. "You are the Bullet Girl and you know I've been your Gun." Thats right, track 4 "Bullet Girl." If I think of this album, this is the first song I will think of.

Overall Impression — 8
The main issue I see about this album is not relative to my own opinion but to fans of their older albums. Many fans are looking for a repeat of "Sunrise Over Sea" and this is not it, there are moments where old fans will be reminded of "SOS" which may be pleasing for them. I noticed that the response to the first single "Only One" was not so warming from everyone. The single is not totally representative of the whole album as you would expect. 

Overall this album covers some fair variety, yet probably not as much as previous albums as the band are known for. In my opinion this is not a stand out album from the band but a solid insight on where they are in their career. It wouldn't be the first album you buy from this band. By no means is this a bad album, it just seems like a fans album.

7 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Great album. It has more slower and softer songs than their other albums, but still great.
    To be honest I've kind of lost interest in John Butler since Grand National... He used to have this signature sound with his slightly distorted 12 string acoustic, a very technical playstyle that was pretty impressive and subtle melodies that had an awesome raw energy to it. I just can't hear any of that on his new records and his songs start sounding more and more like generic pop songs... Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against pop songs, but it's just not what made me love his music so much when I started listening to JBT over ten years ago... I listened to JBT, Three and Sunrise over Sea so much the CDs are completely worn out, but I really can't into this new record nor the one before that.
    Eh I liked Grand National a lot but April Uprising and this were so disappointing to me. They both were so poppy. And I agree about the technical musicianship. He used to play so sick! Now it's kinda boring
    It's a real shame he got rid of his previous Bassist and drummer (Last appearance was on Grand national) they were far more advanced in their skills than Johns current picks in the band. It's seems to have translated into some pretty lack luster stuff. The previous lineup was so freakin beast when they played live.
    I quite like the new drummer hes got on this album but hes obviously nothing compared to Michael Barker (Grand National). And the bassist thats been with him since April Uprising seems very bland and uninspiring to me. I heard the previous musicians left as they wernt comfortable with doing world wide tours etc as they both have children.
    The drummer left because he was a frontman in a another band that was starting to take off, so he wanted to focus on that.
    Not surprising, he keeps recycling the same album over and over, so so boring. Only his first album was worth a listen.