CD Review: John Butler Trio

April Uprising (ATO)

Two years ago, Australian guitar hero John Butler made some changes in his life after a grueling world tour supporting Grand National. Butler cut his hair, dissolved his trio and settled back to relax and write songs for his next album, taking time to appear on the Australian celebrity genealogy TV show, Who Do You Think We Are. The discovery of revolutionary thinkers and doers in his bloodline was a profoundly enlightening experience for Butler, and the revelations served as inspiration for his new album. Freshly energized and sporting a new rhythm section in bassist Byron Luiters and drummer Nicky Bomba, Butler retains the stylistic blueprint of his previous albums — incisive and socially aware lyrics set to a soundtrack of contemporarily classic guitar rock flecked with hip-hop rhythms — while dialing everything up a notch or three. Album opener "Revolution" mixes U2 anthemics with Dave Matthews atmospherics, "One Way Road" bounces along on Red Hot Chili Peppers groove, and "C'mon Now" sounds like a two-and-a-half rhythmic pop distillation of everything Lindsey Buckingham did on Tusk. Butler shows off his banjo skills in the moody, driven "Ragged Mile (Spirit Song)," blends his stylistic gifts with a dash of skiffle-guitar gallop in the true-crime "Johnny's Gone," nods to the Police and Ben Harper simultaneously in "Close to You," shows John Mayer how to write a gorgeous ballad in "Mystery Man" and cooks ethereal guitar pop to a soulful balladic turn in the hit-in-waiting "Steal It." With April Uprising, John Butler has expanded and intensified his musical palette without losing any of the subtlety and grace that has earned him a large and loyal following. — Baker

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