This will be a weekly series documenting musicians I feel are virtuoso’s of their craft whether it be singing, guitar, bass, piano, or drums. This week features; John Butler Trio, Derek Trucks Band, G. Love and Special Sauce, and Jon Cleary.
John Butler Trio- Guitar
John Butler Trio hails from Australia, where they have been making their unique roots style rock for over a decade. John Butler started out as a musician busking on the streets and soon got notice for his unique playing style. Featuring some of the longest fingernails you will ever see as well as an electric acoustic guitar, John Butler gets a unique sound out of his instrument and is fantastic to see live, if not better than his studio recordings. Ocean, one of the tracks featured is probably his most famed instrumental, a climactic build up on guitar that is amazing to the eyes and the ears assisted only at times by his drummer, but most of the piece is purely just him alone with his guitar. Betterman has the full ensemble that features a great hook and a great groove. Butler is a good singer as well, which makes his fantastic guitar playing that more special given he can aptly handle both tasks. Both these tracks are taken from the fantastic Live at St. Gallen, a concert recorded in France, and as he says at the beginning of Ocean “It seems all the more fitting when I leave home and play countries that I dont speak the language because I’d really like to converse with you but I’m just stupid so music’s the best way and maybe music without words takes it even further so this is my gift, this is my conversational piece to you.” Well said. Lastly I included a cover of Across the Universe. He isn’t the first to do it but he succeeds where others failed, Rufus Wainwright was too bombastic and Fiona Apple too strange, he takes his strengths and doesn’t try to make the song what it isn’t. A true musician.
Derek Trucks Band- Guitar/ Band ensemble
It’s not a stretch to compare the Derek Trucks Band to the Allman Brothers Band, not just because Derek Trucks is the son of Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, and frequently guests with the Allman Brothers during live shows but also that they’ve taken up the mantle of that warm bluesy jazz meets southern rock sounds. They aren’t a typical jam band in the format of Phish and the Grateful Dead but they possess a much warmer sound than either and each solo isn’t overdone, rather it supplements the piece with beautiful understatement. Make no mistake, Derek Trucks is one of the best guitarists on the planet today, if not the best slide guitarist, Trucks plays with his fingers and thumbs giving him a thicker tone and making it even all the more impressive when he rips into solos. But most importantly he’s a fantastic ensemble player, something that hasn’t really been seen since the Allman Brothers were in their hey day. Yet DTB doesn’t feature two guitarists, so he carries the duties of rhythm and lead. These tracks come from their fantastic live album Live at Georgia Theatre.
G. Love and Special Sauce- Rhythm section
Forget the hype of them being the first to mix hip hop and blues, G. Love and Special Sauce deserve their due in their fantastic grooves, Jeffery “Houseman” Clemens, and Jeffery “Jimi Jazz” Prescott create a unique busy rhythm section with their respective New Orleans styled drumming and upright jazz bass playing. The Things That I Used to Do, the debut track off of their debut album features possibly the best bass and drumming grooving interplay of the 90’s. Rhyme for the Summertime, also off their debut features some great hi-hat work and a nice mellow bass groove, and on the fantastic This Ain’t Living they tone it down perfectly, for all those times you’ve heard the words “This is the true hip-hop” well this is what truly is the real hip hop. Stepping Stone features great dynamic interplay and changing tempos, Lay Down the Law features another perfect mellow rhythmic backdrop and some well placed tuneful whistling. You Shall See features a very busy rhythm section with some great dynamic tempo changes. No Turning Back is reminiscent of The Things That I Used to Do in the great drum opening and fantastic upright bass and drums interplay throughout. Do It For Free opens with a great little bass solo before segueing into another busy yet tasteful rhythmic groove. On all these tracks, G. Love also proves an apt rhythm guitarist, putting the chord changes into perfect sync with his rhythm section counterparts.
Jon Cleary- Piano
Jon Cleary hails from New Orleans and his piano playing is probably the best the area features today (sorry Dr. John). He has an excellent backing band as well, named the Absolute Monster Gentleman, who when present provide perfect accompaniment, but its an absolute ear dazzling wonder to hear Jon Cleary let loose on the piano. Whether it be the dramatic piano rolls at the beginning of People Say (a funky Meter’s classic ) the fantastic blues playing in Port Street Blues, or the absolutely mind blowing solo on When U Get Back. He isn’t afraid of mixing styles either, he plays a fantastic Latin style, as evidenced on Oh No No No and, well the solo on When U Get Back. Jon Cleary at times can sound equal parts Michael McDonald and Lyle Lovett when it comes to his singing but its his piano playing that is utterly fantastic.