Phoenix Rising Records [Release date 01.06.18]
Former Big Country bassist Tony Butler Big Country started working on this album when he left Big Country in 2012. He is managed by former Big Country manager Ian Grant and the band’s drummer Mark Brezezicki guests on four songs, so there are plenty of links with his musical past and indeed in the sound of many of the songs on here.
Mind you Tony Butler is not just a ‘one band man’ having worked with amongst others Ray Davies, Nils Lofgren and Roger Daltrey. Tony Butler plays all the instruments bar the drums and Hammond organ on ‘I’m Getting Old’, played by Josh Phillips who has played keys for Big Country on tour.
The album opens with ‘Heaven Saved A Place For You’, a radio hit if ever there was one. The song is a homage to his biggest influence in his life, his mother and it has a divine chorus. Butler has a melodic vocal, nothing too harsh and perfect for songs with a rock riff and a big pop heart.
Unsurprisingly the distinctive chiming guitar sound of Big Country can be heard in a few songs, most notably ‘Boy From The Bush’, ’Scared To The Bone’ and ‘Strange Old Town’. Lyrically the songs are often deeply personal dealing with his life in Cornwall on ‘Strange Old Town’ and ones of self-reflection, ‘Save My Dignity’.
The album’s ‘prog’ moment comes on ‘Long Shadows’ which allows Butler to show his prowess on the guitar (he said he should have really been a guitarist however he said the bass was just too sexy!). ‘I’m Getting Old’ may be about aging yet it is the most rocking song on the album driven along by the insistent bass and drums, with classy Hammond playing courtesy of Josh Phillips throughout.
The oldest song on here is the bonus song ‘A Lovely Day’, a demo from 1998 and it is an uplifting piece of music.
Hopefully Tony Butler will get out and tour these songs as they deserve to be heard and enjoyed. Big Country was a big part of his past, yet on this album Butler has made a musical statement about his music in the here and now. An intoxicating mix of pop and rock in just the right measures. ****
Review by Jason Ritchie
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