Slim Butler finds a hot point in the Big Freeze

Music is and always has been a universal language…Blues is no different and is not the preserve of the countries it originated in; nor is it all sadness as Dan McCafferty ironically espoused on Nazareth’s purposely standard blues standard on Razamanaz….each line begins, “I woke up this morning” and is followed by a litany of misfortune. No, it is suffused with humour too and in every form it reaches every corner of this blighted planet. Scandinavia has long been home to blues centric festivals (Hell springs to mind) and high-quality indigenous blues from the residents. Finland is noted for Ms Lyytinen in this country but one look at the blues union website for Finland reveals a vast lake of talent. There is one more to add to the list as Slim Butler releases his third album, appropriately entitled Big Freeze. Born Jarmo Puhakka, in a small town within the Arctic Circle called (and don’t ask me to pronounce it) Rovaniemi. He started playing the guitar at the age of twelve and, with influences like Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher, The Beatles, Howlin´ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Feat, Ry Cooder and The Allman Brothers, you can guess that his music is full of blues with funk and jazz in the shadows. His previous albums are Inner Blues from 2012 and Bad Intention reviewed in 2016 here on Bluesdoodles.

Opening track of the new album, on my copy at least, is the instrumental Coconut Monster…here is humour without words: any music that brings a smile to your face has to be good and, with its lyrical guitar and rhythms, this one will plant that smile firmly in place. The coconut gives the clue, as we get some reggae mixed with southern seas in a delightful piece: the guitar playing throughout is never predictable and great to listen to as we get fuzz, bends, picking and loosening/tightening of machine heads…it’s all there in a really fun tune. Everything You Need is a change of feel as the funky blues with soulful vocals combine to make a keys and guitar romp better than it suggest at first as the poppy feel devolves into a true lump of funk rock guitar with a solo of some quality. The nearest comparison, should you want one, is Chris Catena on a good day on his Freak Out CD. Fat Times has a lovely blues harp and guitar harmony opening, before the song becomes a structured heavy soul and blues number with another delightful guitar solo that under-stays its welcome! Hey Now Baby brings a rockier edge to proceedings with a funk laced backing and (as on most of the tracks) a B3 painting colour across the whole song. The guitar solo is more careful fuzzed picking and bending and as it develops, Slim’s imagination/invention, ensures that it is always different from similarly structured blues. Keep It Real is Chicago shuffle and harp over a great, if recognisable, riff…think JS Taylor. It stays new, however, as the verses unreel and the guitar behind the vocals is delicate, yet has weight. Kissed By The Blues has great SRV like intro before the guitar follows the vocal as well as illuminating the end of each line. The solo retains an SRV sound while, if you listen carefully, the strummed chords in the background are cleverly holding everything together with a deft touch. Running Away From The Blues may be as a result of the “kiss of death” on the previous track…regardless, this is Free feeling initially but the riff then goes on a path that is pure Slim Butler; and when the solo kicks in, it’s just a delight as he puts three different styles into it. Southern Belle has a jangly acoustic behind a heavier riff that combines to make it a bit too Petty for me, although the solo is inventive enough to make it stronger with the southern rock essence captured well. Sweaty Betty is the delightful title of the next track…maybe a relative of that other famous Betty who has the unfortunate surname of Swallocks! My suspect humour aside, it is a piano backed slice of heavy, swampy, tongue in cheek blues. At last we get some slide guitar and, although it is way too short, Slim proves he can do that well too. Final track, Where Is The Love, has nice staccato guitar before the almost 70s style soul/disco cuts in for the verses…even though the electric piano, organ and bass line nearly saves it, I’m afraid this will suffer the skip button for me as the whole thing is too redolent with genres I cannot easily listen to.

So, apart from that last track, this is a fine album with Slim contributing some truly innovative guitar patterns and phrasing throughout. The band behind him is first class too with the bass, drums, keys and percussion helping to strengthen already strong songs. The vocals too are the blues side of soul with that one exception.

It isn’t blues or rock or funk…it is a pleasing amalgam of all three at the same time that works really well and the musicianship, as already stated, is such that you really must listen to all of the instruments to get the full benefits from some very good songs.

EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting:

  1. Fat Times
  2. Everything You Need
  3. Keep It Real
  4. Running Away From the Blues
  5. Where Is The Love
  6. Sweaty Betty
  7. Coconut Monster
  8. Southern Belle
  9. Hey Now Baby
  10. Kissed by the Blues

Musicians:

Jarmo “Slim” Puhakka: guitars

Harri Raudaskoski: guitar

Mikko Löytty: bass

Jartsa Karvonen: drums, percussion

Harri Taittonen: keys

Andrew Black: vocals

Tad Robinson: vocals, harmonica

Tomi Leino: harmonica

Slim Butler finds a hot point in the Big Freeze

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