John Butler Trio's latest features new lineup
“Big heavy pirate man digging those holes, messing with something that they can’t control.”
Australia’s John Butler must have been looking into a crystal ball when he wrote those lyrics for the new song “Revolution.”
Given the environmental disaster at the hands of British Petroleum on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, that prescient couplet is sure to get a roar when Butler and his trio perform.
Taking a few years off between albums to spend time with his children, Butler, 35, just released his fifth album, “April Uprising.” Along the way were some changes to the lineup. Gone are bassist Shannon Birchall and drummer Michael Barker; replaced, respectively, by Byron Luiters and Butler’s brother-in-law, Nicky Bomba, who is back drumming for the band after some time away.
“It’s always three years between albums, because of all the touring we do,” Butler said, adding his guys “don’t get a lot of vacations.”
Known for his relentless touring, Butler said when he was ready to begin again he formed a new band. He’s quick to point out, though, that there are no hard feelings with his former mates.
“We created some beautiful music together,” Butler said.
Of the new lineup, Butler said he feels “blessed.”
“I was struck immediately by the chemistry we had when we first played together,” he said.
Butler, whose open-finger tuning on his 12-string guitar gives him a unique sound, effortlessly blends rock, roots, and reggae sounds. His laid-back vocals are also uninhibited and drenched in soul. These characteristics are reflected on “April Uprising.” The songs range in tempo, borrowing flavors from reggae, Celtic and ska, among others. The rambling ease of “Johnny’s Gone” features one of Butler’s best vocals. “Close to You” features a surging guitar, and “To Look Like You” is fast-rock feast. Lyrically, Butler sings about taking control of our destinies.
Butler said inspiration to write songs strikes him in spurts.
“Sometimes I do a lot all at once, sometimes even on the road ... At the moment I’m in a period of what I call accumulating experiences and impressions – these are often the inspirations I’ll use later for a song. Even after five albums I’ve found there is no formula for me.”
Butler was inspired to call the new album “April Uprising” after his ancestry was featured on an episode of the TV genealogy program “Who Do You Think You Are?”
It was discovered that Butler’s family included Bulgarian revolutionaries who had been instrumental in that country’s April Uprising. His great-great-grandmother had supported her family by singing in a pub. Evidence was found praising her marvelous voice. Other relatives were poets and musicians.
“It has just always been so hard to find out anything truthful about my ancestors over the years,” said Butler, who was born in California and raised in Australia since age 10. “It was a wonderful experience to learn all those things.”
Butler had been attending Curtin University in Perth, with an eye toward becoming an art teacher. He began busking and soon his musical fire led to a new career. He’s partners in Jarrah Records, which releases all his albums, two of which have gone platinum in Australia. In 2004, the year his third CD, “Sunrise Over Sea,” went gold in its first week, an Aussie publication tabbed his income at $2.4 million, leading to the moniker “the millionaire hippie.” Butler and wife, Danielle, established the JB Seed fund in 2005, dedicated to supporting music and arts projects throughout Australia. Many other rockers Down Under have joined in.
In addition to all his success, Butler is renowned as one of the most all-out, marathon-set performers. Sweat-drenched two-and-a-half to three-hour concerts are a norm.
“We still play two hours and more every night,” Butler said. “I still like to take my fans on a journey.”
Patriot Ledger contributor Jay N. Miller covers music. If you have information or ideas send it to email@example.com.