John Butler Trio / John Butler

Flesh + Blood

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The sixth long player from the rootsy Australian trio (and first outing in four years) finds bandleader John Butler occupying a more introspective and nostalgic headspace than he has on previous outings. Butler has always been a cerebral gent, although one prone to crafting stadium sized activist anthems like "Earthbound Child" and "Fire in the Sky," but there's a more settled vibe to Flesh + Blood that suggests a possible sea change. Opener "Spring to Come," which begins with the lyric "Lost my love, lost my light" and concludes with the line "After a lonely long night comes the sun," sets the mood, offering up a solid foundation of fluid fingerpicking and circular, warm weather rhythms and melodies for Butler to opine over. It's a tone and sentiment that occurs frequently throughout the album's surprisingly concise (for a jam band) fifty-two minute runtime, and it serves the trio well, especially on more contemplative cuts like "Bullet Girl," "Only One," and the lovely and languid Ainslie Wills-assisted "Young and Wild." To be fair, JBT fans looking for bolder, more familiar strokes have more than a few traditional roots-rock offerings to sift through, some of them solid (the dark and immersive "Cold Wind" and the fun, if not a tad derivative "Livin' in the City") and some of them not (the turgid, reggae/blues-rock epic "Blame it on Me" and its throwaway, whitebread counterpart "Devil Woman"), but it's in the more refined, self reflective moments where Butler, bassist Byron Luiters, and drummer Nicky Bomba really come alive.

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