Wild Child Butler
Review by Dave Glackin
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SACD (APO 2015 SA)
George "Wild Child" Butler, harmonica player par excellence, has toured with Jimmy Rogers and
Lightnin' Hopkins, and has been praised by many of the legends of the blues. He is one of the most underrated blues performers today, according to the good folks at Chad Kassem's Blue Heaven Studios. He cut his first record in Montgomery, Alabama in 1964. Now he has cut his first SACD in Salina, Kansas in 2000, at the age of 64. Wild Child has a commanding stage presence, and his lively harmonica playing and singing really hit me where I live. I know, because I was at Chad Kassem's place to see him perform in rehearsal and in front of a delirious audience. And now Chad has issued an SACD that captures George Butler at his
Chad Kassem is doing as much as anyone alive today to preserve the blues. His Blue Heaven Studios, in a beautiful old cathedral in Salina, Kansas, is a place where blues artists can be recorded in state-of-the-art sound in a relaxed, inviting atmosphere. Chad has become justifiably famous for his efforts to record aging blues masters for posterity.
I had the distinct pleasure of getting to know Wild Child Butler while covering Chad's third "Blues Masters at the Crossroads" festival in October,
2000 (see show coverage by clicking here). The bouncing baby George was born in 1936 on a plantation in Alabama. His
mildly menacing moniker apparently came from his habit as a baby of sliding across the floor, tearing
womens' stockings, and tugging at their skirts. Although the name has stuck, the still-bouncing but mature Wild Child is friendly and low-key off-stage. He's anything but low-key when he hits the stage.
During the concert, Wild Child bounded onto the stage sporting what looked like a cartridge belt, but it turned out to be a harmonica belt. With the appropriate harmonica always ready, Wild Child put on an astounding show. In my humble opinion, this fellow deserves to be ranked right up at the top of today's reigning blues masters. And that's even if he does play his harmonicas upside-down (he didn't know any better while he was learning to play, and no one pointed it out to him for years). But backwards blues this is not. No one sounds quite like Wild Child Butler.
With this SACD, you'll get a good dose of what I got in Salina. The sound is clear, live and real. Wild Child, on vocals and harmonica, is accompanied by Jimmy D. Lane on acoustic and electric guitar, Bob Stroger on bass, Sam Lay on drums, along with the venerable Jimmie Lee Robinson on acoustic guitar on one cut. The unique and compelling Wild Child sound will get your toes tapping and your blood flowing. Many of the cuts are feel-good, up-tempo numbers that roll right along. Others are slower, but punctuated with Wild Child's patented "snappy" blues style. My favorite blues musician of all time, Sonny Boy Williamson, was a big influence on Wild Child, and I can hear it clear as day in some of his slower numbers.
Here's hoping Wild Child makes it back to Salina for an encore. Highly recommended.
Sound Quality: 95