Album Review: Shawn Butzin – Northern Trails (Winner NMF Ep 53)

I can’t decide if Shawn Butzin sounds more like the Americana revival coming with the Isbell/Adams crowd or if he’s more like the originals like Tom Petty. Either way, fans of that classic rock-meets-folk-meets-country sound will really dig this album from Shawn Butzin.

“Carefree to Carolina” has some really rich chords and rhythms to it. It feels like a Dawes song sometimes, but the vintage background vocals immediately thrust you back in time. It definitely feels like it could have come out on vinyl in the early 70s.

The second track “What Did I Mean to You” is the song that won this review and it’s easy to hear what our voters enjoyed. The vocal style feels old and quite familiar. It’s a relationship retrospective, but the dialog element of it feels really comfortable. It will definitely put you in mind of those classic 70s bands like the Eagles.

“Homemade Jesus” is an interesting irreverent tune about a certain lifestyle. It’s got a fun little flavor to it and some fun flippant lyrics. “Leaving Colorado” feels like a commercial country hit more than the others. It’s not as much the typical Americana vibe. That said, it rolls along nicely. I picture it getting the crowd going at a Nashville venue.

“Hometown Blues” works really well. It’s one of my favorites on the album. The tune isn’t a conventional blues track, but the storytelling style reminds me more of a folk ballad. It tells a familiar story of never going home again. The following “Blue Bayou” uses another folk trope of enjoying the good life. The song’s style isn’t so much what you associate with the bayou, but the lyrical content is.

“I’m Your Loving Man” feels like a pretty tradition love-but-not song. It’s about hard work and the sort of love that is communicated without necessarily being conventionally romantic. The song is complex with layers of soundscapes that are not a conventional three chord folk song. The last track “Your Sweet Love” is a cool way to end the album. It feels, honestly, like a cowboy song. It’s a delightfully unconventional way to end the album.

All told, fans of modern Americana will enjoy this one. If you’re a fan of Wilco or Jason Isbell, give it a spin.

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