Henry Butler has changed labels, this time to Basin Street Records, and with the change, he has ventured a little further than he has in the past to encompass even more musical styles.
Butler is one of those personalities--and "personality" is the right word--you have to accept on his own terms, like Ray Charles or James Brown. Butler follows his own muse and has a good time doing it, inevitably entertaining audiences along the way. Categories mean little or nothing to him; rather, the music has the meaning, and it can take numerous forms, whether it falls strictly into the jazz category or not. If Butler must be categorized, it seems that "blues" is the basis for his music, arising as it does from the mixtures of influences that one finds in New Orleans. Several years ago, when he held down the piano chair in Verve’s band promoting the Kansas City
movie and CD, the force of Butler’s musical force transformed a re-created 1930’s-like swing band into one that started swaying with a blues feel as well.
On The Game Has Just Begun,
Butler holds down more than the piano chair: He is a virtual band unto himself as he programs in drum and harmonica sounds as well--a departure from past albums. But the rocking and jumping take precedence, for the feel of the music is Butler’s primary concern. "The Game Has Just Begun" introduces Butler’s gravely voice on his own composition, the shuffle beat animating the tune even as Butler drops down into a conversational voice. "Mac Daddy Henry" features Shane Theriot’s electric guitar, twanging and singing, in between Butler’s gruff presentation of the lyrics in an all-out live roadhouse feel.
"Great Balls Of Fire" confirms the suspicion that Butler picked up some of his styles along the way from Jerry Lee Lewis, and it’s no surprise when he glides into "High Heeled Sneakers" as well. Both songs contain the same level of outreach to an audience that would invite everyone to get up and dance.
The newer element of The Game Has Just Begun
is Butler’s inclusion of some New Age sounds, particularly on "Regeneration," which features a light percolation of electronic sounds behind Butler’s kaleidoscopic keyboard work and occasional vocal accents.
The CD ends, interestingly enough, with a Henry Butler interview. By the evidence of the CD, Butler seems not to have diverted much from the approaches that his listeners have enjoyed for years. However, the interview reveals that Butler is a student of regional and world music, even going so far as to say that he loves the music of Philadelphia or Lafayette, Lousiana, not to mention authentic Celtic music. So, it makes sense that Butler is slowly expanding the musical styles he includes on The Game Has Just Begun
and future CD’s. Even though Butler’s roots are in New Orleans, his intellectual curiosity has enlarged to absorb ideas from all over the world.