By MARK GUARINO | Sun-Times Music Writer
John Butler is a long-time familiar face on the jam band circuit; the Australian-based frontman has crisscrossed the world thrilling young wigglers with heavy blues, reggae dancehall, power chords and always the improvisational detours.
“Flesh & Blood” (Vanguard), a sixth album released earlier this week, sails far beyond genre in placing more emphasis on better song structures, textures, and alt-rock clarity. Despite the sleepy Jack Johnson vibe of opener “Spring to Come,” this new album really locks down with “Livin’ in the City,” a fuzz-funk breakout and “Devil Woman,” a snaky blues reminiscent of North Mississippi Allstars.
Butler, in step with bassist Bryon Luiters and drummer Nicky Bomba, is a more engaging vocalist, especially when songs that recline and reveal hidden depths. “Young and Wild” introduces strings and female voices as counterpoints while “Wings Are Wide” explores a lush cluster of sounds. The most cinematic moment is “How Do You Sleep At Night” — Not the scorned toss-off the title suggests, but a soaring rock anthem in league with Kings of Leon. “This war we fight you’ll see/scorches all but the truth,” Butler sings, ignited by the flames of this hot band.
The John Butler Trio plays two sold-out nights, tonight and Saturday, at the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield Ave. Jamusa.com.