The John Butler Trio - XM Studio Session

I was lucky enough to be invited to The John Butler Trio’s live XM studio session Tuesday afternoon. Since I won't be able to catch these guys at the 9:30 Club tonight, I was pretty pleased to get a chance see them in such an intimate setting.

They went with an acoustic line-up, with Butler on 12-string (and a little banjo), Shannon Birchall on acoustic bass, and Michael Barker on drums and percussion. Barker was sealed off in the drum chamber, but his percussive exploits were still visible through the windows. Both Birchall and Barker sang harmony and backup vocals, which definitely was a plus.

Most of their songs were funky, groove-oriented numbers that were often punctuated by searing slide guitar fills and solos. Even though the band was “just” a trio, there was plenty of instrumental action, with the rhythm section expertly holding down the low end during guitar workouts. Butler worked his 12-string like a champ, picking up a storm at times, and electrifying the sound of his acoustic when it was time to play leads or fills with his slide.

Lead vocals came from Butler, via a quick, yet still laid back, vocal delivery, at times almost rapping words over top of the music. The band ran through a 7-song set, ranging from the lumbering groove of “Daniella” (an ode to Butler’s wife), to the reggae-tinged “Good Excuse” (about folks complaining when there are others with things much more serious to complain about), to my personal favorite, the foot-stomper of a closer, “Funky Tonight.”

I also got to speak to John Butler briefly after the show, and based on what I already knew about his socially-conscious nature, I wasn’t surprised to learn that he’s spreading his recent success around. He’s set up a very cool program called
The JB Seed. It’s an arts grant fund designed to help developing artists in his native Australia (he moved there from the US at age 11) become self-sufficient.

So needless to say, it was a good afternoon.