There are moments of brilliance on Grand National, where the undeniable musical talents of John Butler are on full, showy display. Even the harshest hippy hater couldn’t deny the dude can play the hell out of his lapsteel, banjo, acoustic and electric guitar, as evidenced throughout this album and in abundance during his jam-heavy live shows (just check YouTube).
But, man—the lyrics. Every line of the forgettable “Daniella” reads like some grade school valentine: “You light me up little girl, like the Fourth of July/I love you more than every single star, man, in the sky.” On the reggae-tinged “Groovin’ Slowly,” Butler mines the same material, singing, “I want to you know that you’re the brightest star in my sky.” There are few breaks from the love-struck clichés.
That said, Butler’s prodigious playing comes together in gorgeous harmony with songwriting and arrangement on “Gov Did Nothin’,” a sprawling eight-plus-minute track about the Bush administration. It begins with a percussive-infused acoustic jam (kudos Michael Barker) and echoing gospel-like backup vocals, evolves into a showcase of Butler’s lapsteel, and then winds its way to a funky brass band outro. Great stuff, especially considering the lyrics are mercifully sparse. (Skylar Browning)
John Butler Trio plays the Wilma Theatre Friday, April 18, at 8:30 PM. $20.