14 Dec 2015

Paul Butler: Cities Made of Gold

In another profession Paul Butler would be known as a sleeper. He was there. He disappeared and decades later he emerges from the shadows, still fully formed, totally professional and delivering the goods. He first crossed my horizon in the distinguished company of Stan Webb at the end of the 70s (one of the many Chicken Shack line-ups) but he was well known before that for fronting the British Blues Band Jellybread and his work with the famed drummer Keef Hartley. Recordings with BB King and Mike Vernon are also part of his back list. And then... like so many talents, struggling for a foothold in the shambolic music business at that time...he decided that he should give it a rest. Thankfully for us, in 2009 he picked up his guitar again and in 2013 produced his well received CD 'Days Will Come'.

The new CD 'Cities Made of Gold', released this month is a terrific example of how, even after decades of absence, a talent steeped in such a technicolour musical history can still produce a fascinating mix of blues tinged tracks that keep you absorbed from beginning to end. As a bonus, the album is overflowing with nods to musical influences and styles.

With the very first notes of the very first track 'Just One Bite' he has you brassing your way back into New Orleans - maybe walking behind the coffin - whilst Paul ironically reflects on being in love with a vampire. As a storyteller, - and many of these tracks are tales of some dark life – Paul Butler has the perfect cool lived-in blues voice.

The arrangements are first class and he has some pretty accomplished musicians with him, notably Pete Wingfield on piano and Tammy Rogers on violin. The piano strides centrally in the up-tempo and atmospheric house party 'I remember Mabel' where some female backing singers join in the fun. By dramatic contrast, the very next track, the terrific 'Can't Make That Call' could have been produced by Dylan at his saddest and most mellow. In another side-step 'She Runs with the Foxes' took The Hat straight back to the Hot Club de Paris. Tammy's violin dives and slides while the guitar teases with some Django full chords. Loved it.

This is a first-rate album and you should get it on your listen list. It is certainly different. Pretty rootsy rather than bluesy but there are any number of really thoughtful tracks on here, displaying the talent to advantage – brass arrangements, some mellifluous picking on the title track, delicate slide, mandolin, harp and even some steel pan gets a look-in. It is good to see Paul Butler back in business.