Album review: RED BUTLER – Nothing To Lose

The Best of 2016 - Breakthrough Act

RED BUTLER – Nothing To Lose

Red Butler Original [Release date 11.11.16]

From the sudden explosive opening burst of ‘Got To Make It’, Red Butler confidently announce that they have moved on a quantum jump from their ‘Freedom Bound’ debut album.

‘Nothing To Lose’ lights a fuse which smoulders, sparkles and finally glistens, as it fully reveals itself as an album with purposeful songs built round intricate little pauses, rich layers of sounds, catchy hooks and big guitar breaks.

Where once there was an enthusiastic band full of promise, but still honing their song writing craft and musical direction, there now stands a road tested combo who have matured sufficiently well to carve out their own direction.

‘Nothing To Lose’ has lots of energy, real drive and a broad based musical outlook. It’s predicated on the blues but not bound by it and is a successful meeting of good songs, a confident band and Wayne Proctor’s intuitive production.

It’s very much a song-driven, contemporary blues rock album with a big vision, but with enough light and shade to capture the contrasting moments of real feel and outright swagger when the band is straining at the leash.

The muscular rhythm section of bassist Mikey Topp and the big drum sound of Charlie Simpson is offset by Alex Butler’s gnawing guitar lines that drag the songs to the very edge of the precipice.

And right at the centre of the musical maelstrom is vocalist Chloe Jane Pearce with an aching close-to-the-mic style that draws the listener into a series of grooves and rocking blues.

She’s got a warm mellifluous vocal style, to which she adds precise diction and expressive phrasing to make the lyrics believable. And if she rarely moves out of her mid-range comfort zone and the opening lines on the first two songs could be more powerful, it’s because she sets out her stall with a sensual delivery, based on judicious timing and making the lyrics count.

She’s best on the up-tempo material such as ‘Say Hello (To My Little Friend)’, the catchy ‘Big Bad Wolf’  and the rocky ‘You Only Live Once’. And on the closing  ’Never Go Back’ she moves from a very deliberate opening to an exuberant finish on a rocking shuffle finale.

She’s also a good interpretive singer as evidenced by her reading of Sandi Thom’s  ballad ‘Belly Of The Blues’. She gets inside the song as it builds imperiously on the back of Alex Butler’s big guitar figure which rises above the track like a volcano.

The track is full of restraint and subtle dynamics and is framed by a booming production that emphasizes the band’s ability to rock.

‘Nothing To Lose’  is a step up for Red Butler, with stronger songs and fine band interplay, especially on the aptly titled ‘Calm Before The Storm’. They counterbalance a subtle mix of acoustic and electric guitars before a sudden drum roll rupture which mirrors the lyrical intent.

A brief break-down leads to defining incendiary guitar line, and it’s moments like this that are pivotal to an album that takes great delight in exploring mini-tensions and then resolving them impressively with solos that are always part of the song.

‘Nothing To Lose’ sounds like a genuine organic album that showcases the band’s creative drive. It also sounds like the band members are stretching out and successfully realizing a bigger vision of themselves

The title track is a slow burner that grows with repeated plays and benefits from an enveloping chorus over a repeated gnawing riff, deft harmonics and jangling and harmony guitars.

There’s a wide array of musical influences ranging from the lilting bounce of ‘Say Hello (To My Little Friend)’ – complete with a Celtic tinged finish – to the funky ‘All You Got To Do’ and the slow building blues ballad ‘Belly Of The Blues’, which balances Butler’s big toned guitar with crisp percussion.

Then there the catchy ‘Big Bad Wolf, which in spite of a well heeled metaphor will surely offer them radio airplay. Jane’s vocal flows seamlessly into a catchy chanted hook as Alex Butler adds two contrasting solos that lead into a perfunctory outro.

The burgeoning ‘Black Flies is another highlight, with a defining solo from Butler that sounds as if he’s waited all the session for this one moment. He leans into the song with real panache, before adding a repeated buzz tone riff on the outro.

The band rocks out on ‘You Only Live Once’ and book-ends a splendid album with the melodic and uplifting ‘Never Go Back’ with one of Pearce’s best vocals and a final solo from Butler.

Red Butler may have ‘Nothing To Lose’, but they also have plenty to gain with an album that should push them into the vanguard of contemporary British rock blues.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00


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