Flesh & Blood Review

artist: John Butler Trio date: 02/27/2014 category: compact discs
John Butler Trio: Flesh & Blood
Released: Feb 7, 2014
Genre: Alternative Rock, Bluegrass, Blues Rock, Roots Rock
Label: Family Music Pty Ltd
Number Of Tracks: 11
John Butler Trio's new studio album "Flesh & Blood" may not be the most creative, but still manages to include a sampler of enjoyable moments.
 Sound: 8
 Lyrics: 7
 Overall Impression: 8
 Overall rating:
 Reviewer rating:
 Users rating:
reviews (2) 14 comments vote for this album:
overall: 7.7
Flesh & Blood Featured review by: UG Team, on february 24, 2014
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sound: John Butler Trio are a relatively well known alternative rock band straight out of Fremantle, Australia. Founded by guitarist and vocalist John Butler back in 1998, it's safe to say this group are no newcomers to the music scene, and thanks to a regular touring schedule and steady stream of new studio material they have been able to attract a noticeable following. John Butler Trio first broke into the mainstream in 2004 following the release of their third album "Sunrise Over Sea," which won the band numerous awards while debuting at number one on the Australian charts.

John Butler Trio also aren't discreet about where they draw their influences from. Their unique sound which has allowed the band to produce several chart topping singles is filled to the brim with raw roots elements. The addition of conga drums, hammond organ, lap steel guitar and banjo are qualities which since the release of "Sunrise Over Sea" have become anticipated factors which draw established listeners back for the next compilation of new material. The music itself isn't groundbreaking, and perhaps that was never the group's intention. Their sound highly resembles that of Mumford & Sons who receive heavy commercial airplay. The largest difference between the two groups is that John Butler Trio sound more relaxed in their recordings. The music doesn't sound forced, and allows the entire album to flow easily, which is perhaps their most important feature.

Unlike the folktronica style of Avicii, John Butler Trio do not have to add house-style synthesizers in order to gain radio airtime, which is a refreshing quality in a modern commercial music scene where the majority of pop artists do not play their own instruments, let alone hold the computer generated noise. John Butler Trio remain in a comfortable groove throughout "Flesh & Blood," and do not attempt any radical changes in sound or add any wild remixes. The entire album is comfortably paced, with plenty of quiet percussion playing, delicate acoustic guitar and soothing vocal melodies spread throughout the entire release.

The overall sound of the album is actually quite standout. The production quality is notable, as it allows each of the different string sections, foot-tapping drum beats and distinct musical arrangements to stand separate, as opposed to blending together into an indistinguishable mush that fails to capture your attention. There were several moments throughout the album where I found myself hitting the replay button, just to have another listen at the intricate piano piece which falls gently behind cascades of acoustic guitar and John Butler's harmonic singing style.

On top of the majority of the vocals, John Butler also handles all of the guitar work on the album. There were moments on the album where I felt as though a dual acoustic arrangement would have really benefited the piece, however Butler's playing style in no way hurts the end product found on the album. As I briefly mentioned earlier, there are no pick grinding chord progressions to be found here; instead Butler knows exactly when and where to allow the guitar to be a predominant feature in the mix, and when the vocal melodies and string arrangements need a chance to take the listener's attention. // 8

Lyrics: John Butler has a commendable singing voice with a moderately strong vocal range, which allows him to hit some impressive high notes at full lung capacity. His performance is soulful and filled with emotion, and can bend almost at will from a high energy, upbeat cut to a melancholy piece with wooing melodies.

The vocal melodies which are implemented throughout the album are put to good use and never overstay their welcome, even though there were times where I found myself wishing John Butler and Bryon Luiters would hold out the note for just a few moments longer. The duo create plenty of memorable harmonies throughout the album, which easily soar about the oftentimes quiet instrumental work.

From a lyrical standpoint, John Butler has some very strong moments and some disappointing ones. While his vocal performance is almost always set at 100%, there are times where I found the lyrics to be a bit lacking. They are not unlike many others found in pop music norms, and at times tend to wear upon the listener. As an example of the lyrics from the album, here are some from "Bullet Girl": "I can't believe what happened here tonight, I know those things I said/ you know those things were not right, Anger coursing through my blood and corroding all my veins, I'm hanging on for dear life/ I'm just trying to find my reins." // 7

Overall Impression: John Butler Trio deliver a refreshing collection of roots-flavored recordings on their sixth studio album, "Flesh & Blood." The band's ability to maintain their signature sound while allowing room for positive growth throughout the past sixteen years is impressive, but not as impressive as their performance here. While the lyrics may not be the most creative, the vocal melodies are top notch and has a solid instrumental section to boot. Any established John Butler Trio fan won't be disappointed with this new effort, any mainstream listen should give this album as spin as well. // 8

- Lou Vickers (c) 2014

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overall: 7.7
Flesh & Blood Reviewed by: Nero Galon, on february 27, 2014
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 8

Lyrics: 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. // 7

Overall Impression: 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. // 8

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