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Published: 2007/03/21
by Brad Farberman

Grand National – John Butler Trio

Lava Records

Dready roots-rocker John Butler is a worldly fellow, to say the least. The California/Western Australia native has sold out shows in San Francisco (Fillmore East) and Paris (Grand Rex), performed main stage at the Glastonbury festival, and breezed through editions of Bonnaroo and Jazzfest since his busking days at an outdoor fruit market in the late 1990s.

And he’s not slowing down. This year alone, Butler will mount two tours each of Australia, North America and Europe. But that’s what’s on the menu when you’re workin’ for the big boys (the Atlantic-owned Lava Records), and pushing a new album. Plus, the pressure’s on: 2004’s Sunrise Over Sea went five times platinum in Australia, throwing the dready daddy into the same 2004 league as Coldplay and Christina Aguilera.

But no worries, really. Grand National, produced by Beastie Boys main man Mario Caldato, Jr., is pretty damn good, and features plenty of funky, jammy sing-alongs.

Caldato’s presence is felt strongest on “Daniella,” a G. Lovesque ode to his wife that includes scratching, beatboxing and a bit of wailing harmonica. Other standouts include the lusty, reggae skank of “Groovin’ Slowly” (“Shake that bottom over to me,” he sings) and “Devil Running,” where Butler gets his Brandon Boyd on, and conjures up a little Incubus. Also check the clever, Hurricane Katrina-inspired “Gov Did Nothing” and its transformation into a horn-filled, second-line throw down.

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