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Slim Butler - Slim Butler’s Inner Blues

SlimCuts 1001

10 songs with bonus track; 44:22 minutes

Styles: Traditional Blues, Modern Electric Blues, Rock and Roll

When one imagines Finland, the first things that might come to mind are frigid temperatures, Scandinavian accents, and fish. Add “ hot blues” to the list as a welcome surprise, especially from songwriter and guitarist Jarmo “Slim Butler” Puhakka. As with B.B and the Blues Shacks from Germany, listeners will not surmise which country Slim’s from thanks to the international popularity, spread, and impact of this American art form.

Slim Butler’s true gifts are the flair with which he plays guitar and gifted songwriting, showcasing “Inner Blues.” The album’s two vocalists are both from U.S.A. The incredible Sugar Ray Norcia is best known for being the front man and vocalist for Boston´s legendary bands – Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters, Roomful Of Blues and his own The Bluetones. Also sharing the vocal duties is a rising new star, Andrew Black from Atlanta who adds a soulful southern flavor to the mix. A scintillating guest star, Otis Grand, produced and mixed this album and added some guitar parts.

Also featured here are Butler’s native compatriots (keyboardist Juhani Vitikka, bassist Hannu Lehtomma, and drummers Markku Orislahti and Henry Valanne). The album simmers with the perfectly-balanced ingredients of up-tempo blues (Albert Collins-esque “Mr. Big Shot”), slow blues (“What You Have Done”), and blues rock earworms (“Mexican Tears”). The songs below are stunners, some of the choicest tracks of the New Year:

Track 03: “Never Lose My Soul (Over You)”--This big-band ensemble number hits all the right notes, especially with Sugar Ray Norcia on vocals. “Your face tells a story,” he slyly croons to a cheating inamorata. “Ain’t that the way it ought to be?” Playing both electric and acoustic, Slim Butler’s acoustic-guitar chords fall like summer raindrops upon listeners’ ears in the middle of the song, as do Juhani Vitikka’s musings on keyboard. The best thing about this CD’s third track is that no one musician outshines the others. All collaborate equally in this sultry gem of mid-tempo blues.

Track 07: “Hey, Bartender! (Give Me Back My Fender)”--“I hate to see you leave, but I love to watch you go.” So sings Norcia, again taking vocal lead. This oxymoron is emphasized by his request to the bartender, who has apparently confiscated his weapon of choice against heartbreak. “Let me play my blues away!” he rages, followed by the title’s ultimatum. Blues fans might involuntarily find themselves playing Stevie Ray Vaughan style (air) guitar along with Slim Butler or stomping their feet to Hannu Lehtomma’s bass backbeat.

Track 10: “I Can’t Imagine Why”—An alternate title for the final, officially-listed song on “Inner Blues” could be “Pedestal,” because that’s where slow-blues aficionados might put it once they hear it. “I Can’t Imagine Why” achieves the musical trifecta of meaningful lyrics, Andrew Black’s haunting vocals, and superb instrumentation bed-rocked by Juhani Vitikka’s organ. More than anything, this melody sets a mood of passion and despair in equal parts.

One question: Why is the album’s title track included as a bonus selection only? The instrumental may be short and sweet, running only two minutes and thirteen seconds, but Grand and Butler’s string interplay certainly deserves more than an honorable mention.

Sit back, relax, and let Slim Butler help you tap into your “Inner Blues” through this wonderful CD!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 33 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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