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Grand National

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Album Review

It's been a few years now since John Butler and his trio first cracked the American market, but he's never had quite the same success in the U.S. as he has had in Australia, his father's homeland and his own residence for the past 20-odd years. Butler, however, should feel confident that he can hold his own against any of the Dave Matthewses, Ben Harpers, or John Mayers (all three of whom he can be easily compared to) out there. He's playing pop music, with all the sentimental, occasionally trite lyrics and clean major chord phrasing that accompany that style, but it's pop music done well, with impressive musicianship from Butler (on banjo, lapsteel, and acoustic and electric guitar), percussionist Michael Barker, and bassist Shannon Birchall. Nearly every song on Grand National features at least one instrumental solo, the kind that rolls and sings and grooves and would make Robert Randolph proud, moving close to jam band territory without immersing itself fully in it (only one song, "Gov Did Nothin'," reaches far past the four- or five-minute mark, much in part thanks to a great New Orleans-styled brass band that plays the piece out to a close, and is worth every second). His willingness to explore other genres besides bluesy folk pop — reggae in "Groovin' Slowly," hip-hop in "Daniella," and modern rock in "Devil Running" — certainly adds a nice diversity to the album, but unfortunately this talent is double-edged, as it also becomes the album's greatest flaw. Butler often tries to encompass too much, to do too much, and because of this, comes off sounding a little corny (in the aforementioned "Daniella," for example, which is more embarrassing than anything else), truncating words in a weird Dave Matthews-meets-Adam Sandler kind of way that's too forced and unnatural to sit well. And though it's nice to hear, in "Funky Tonight," for example, that he doesn't take himself too seriously, his simple rhymes and delivery are a bit too silly when they're about love and dancing. When he uses them in his socially and politically oriented pieces, however ("And with God on both sides/If death is justified/Whatever the name/Then we're all to blame," he sings on "Fire in the Sky"), they ring more truly, or at least more originally. But what Butler does best — writing and performing well-crafted pop songs, and sounding like he's having fun all the while — is good, and though Grand National still may not be his entry up the Billboard charts, it's a welcome entry nonetheless.

Customer Reviews

Any way to get the other tracks?

The new JBT cd is amazing, but why the two cds? I was not smart enough to check that there were two cds. I was amazed that it was on here and didn't take the time to look because I wanted to listen to the music as fast I could. Itunes should at least put the other tracks up for .99$ to get the whole Grand National cd without having to by two cds for three songs. Thats my only beef with the Grand National cd. Peace out

Holy Beep J.B.T have out done themselves

If you are a John Butler Trio fan or just getting into them I highly suggest you buy there new cd Grand National. I was woundering how they could top Sunrise over Sea and they have done it without question there is not one single bad track on the disc every song is incredable. It very hard to pick just one or a couple of stand out songs but if I had to it would have to be Daniella, Better Than, Used To Get High, and Devil Running. But Like I said it is very very hard to pick just one the whole cd is amazing. Also if you have a chance to see them live DO NOT pass it up it is by far one of the best live shows I have ever seen. As far as the cd goes pick it up with out question. It will be the best 10 bucks you will spend on a disc this year it is amazing.

get up to downunder

the john butler trio is an amazing band and this album just raises the bar a little bit higher for everyone else. his sound is down home, like he's right in front of you in your back yard with a nice fire burning. check out "used to get high" and "better than". there is no excuse not to know his name.


Born: 1975 in Torrance, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Born in California but raised in Australia, guitarist John Butler debuted with his self-titled album in 1998. Fostering a laid-back style incorporating jazz, folk, and world music influences into his mellow singer-songwriter pop, Butler and his rhythm section made a belated American debut with 2001's THREE. The live set LIVING 2002-2003 cemented his popularity on the jam band...
Full Bio
Grand National, John Butler Trio
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Customer Ratings