(No Bull Songs Records, 2014)
First there was only a lonely single-CD of Kenny Butterill in my collection: 'The Townes You Left Behind' subtitled 'A Tribute to the Late Townes Van Zandt' from 2001, for promotional use only. I'm very happy it is now joined by an autographed, beautiful, brand new full album 'Troubadour Tales'. A fitting title indeed and who else can better talk at length about it than Kenny himself?
Kenny said about his third album: "I didn't really think I would produce a second CD album (let alone the first one) when I started on this journey" - but it was certainly worth the long wait of ten years! Why all that hurrying anyway?
I like Kenny's voice very much, it's warm and relaxed and makes me think of everybody's hero Kris Kristofferson more than once. My favorite tracks (hard to take a pick from all the fine stuff) are: "Pajaro Dunes" with the wonderful accordion and harmonica playing together; "Dead End Of The Dirt Road" where Washboard Hank adds banjo and of course washboard; "True North", the country blues with other favorite Ray Bonneville on harmony vocal, excellent electric guitar and harmonica. You will have fun selecting your own songs that 'speak' to you...
The disc arrives in a luxury digipack, with a thick booklet that has all possible details about the recording, lyrics and various nice pictures. Recommended, it's certainly worth your hard-earned money. My package even has its own 'Kenny stamp'!
"Welcome to these tales of life and love, brought down to me on the wings of a dove. Where music and song dominate the play and harmony and passion rule the day."
'Troubadour Tales', Northern California based Canadian Kenny Butterill's third, self-produced album is a compelling collection of stories and songs about real life, love and romance - all transcendent. Early reviews of this body of work, ten years in the making, indicate the long anticipated CD has a sound and feel that is true to Butterill's legacy of delivering 'rootsy, folksy, bluesy, Americana, alt.country, feel good music'.
Kenny's influences include the legendary J.J. Cale, Gordon Lightfoot, John Prine and the original Donovan Leitch, who makes a cameo appearance on "Gaia Blues", adding what can only be called a perfect duet to Kenny's vocals interchanging two harmonicas on this track. The song, a siren call about Mankind's relationship with Mother Earth, features most of Butterill's musical guests singing as a choir at the end, championing the cause.
Tracks such as the blistering satirical "Good Thing That Couldn't Happen Here" reveal Butterill's mastery of presenting relevant, accessible songs for the common man while "Flying With Buddha" is a comfortable piece about the simple notion of life and death - acknowledging that we all are born - and we all will pass. Having Tibetan Monks chanting at the beginning of the song is so apropos.
A real highlight is the song "Hocus Pocus", Butterill's homage to J.J. Cale, a hero to many. The song was recorded in 2013, three weeks before Cale's passing. Cale's long-time colleague and friend, producer David Teegarden, who mastered this CD in Tulsa, shared that 'It was an honor to work with Kenny. This is one of the best albums I've ever heard - I know Cale would have liked it too'!
Recorded in ten studios over the past year, Kenny's high standards are evident in the illustrious cast of over twenty world class guest musicians he hand-picked for 'Troubadour Tales'. Beside the great Donovan, Cindy Cashdollar and Redd Volkaert weigh in with signature riffs on several tracks. Rob Ickes (dobro) and John Reischman (mandolin) lend their inimitable magic, especially on the beautiful, tender "Woman In A Canoe". John Lee Sanders returns again with Kenny, contributing smooth keyboards and soulful harmony vocals on several tracks and old friend Ray Bonneville is back too, turning in some of his finest work ever on four tracks.
The CD includes a heart-warming, heart-wrenching tribute to Butterill's close friend and supporter, the late Willie P. Bennett in "Willie We Miss Ya". Then there's "Cyrano Song" - a piece Cyrano de Bergerac may have given to his princess if he'd had the courage. The renowned David Grier lays down fantastic lead on acoustic guitar on this track and on "Greatest Love Story Never Told".
Importantly, this CD also marks the last recording of the late, great Sarah Elizabeth Campbell who adds rich harmonies on "Greatest Love Story Never Told". Other stellar female harmony performances are delivered by Audrey Auld on "Dead End Of The Dirt Road" (co-written with Washboard Hank), Americana favorite Zoe Muth on "Gaia Blues" and Linda McRae on "Willie We Miss Ya".
Through the years, Butterill has been praised as a songwriter of great substance and depth. His repertoire continues to deliver on both counts. Richly textured but never overproduced, Butterill's music has the warm ambience of an intimate setting with an up-close, personal vibe. This is due in no small part to the creative control that Butterill, the producer, exercises from recording to mixing, a role he takes very seriously. 'Troubadour Tales' gives us a glimpse inside the man whose insightful, sometimes imaginative perceptions about mankind bear the signature stamp of his personality. Yes, the enigmatic Butterill is back - delivering musical magic that truly connect with Americana, Roots and Folk Blues fans around the world.
Kenny Butterill In His Own Words:
After ten years working on this album, I am finally releasing it. Recorded over the last year in ten studios with more than twenty world class guests musicians, including Donovan, there's a story behind this album and each of the songs. Hope you agree 'Troubadour Tales' was worth the wait.
Before jumping into the songs, I would like to express my deep appreciation to my fans, radio listeners and concert goers who come to listen and buy our music and merchandise. Meeting folks on the road makes touring like visiting friends across the country and world. A special thanks to the radio and media folks who have followed me over the years and kept asking when the next album would be released. I'd like to express my gratitude to all the musicians, studio pros, colleagues, advisers, artists and everyone else who helped me produce this album. And a special thanks to Donovan Leitch for adding his special magic to this record.
As I shared in my 'Just A Songwriter' CD, I'm in this for the art. After wrapping the long run of promoting that album, I retreated into the redwood forest of Northern California where I have lived for over twenty years, became a 'big boat' certified sailor and built a new cottage up in my native Canada. I have gone to that cottage property all my life and it is where many of the 'Troubadour Tales' tunes were written - with a guitar given to me by my friend Willie P. Bennett I might add.
The songs on this album capture my observations about the current world we live in and our relationships to each other. Whether it is a song about love, romance, life and death, or the state of the world, each song was inspired by an event(s) or people. For those of you who know me, I write from the heart and I have to be truly inspired. These 'Troubadour Tales' fit that bill.
I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I enjoyed writing them and producing this album.
Thanks for listening!
Kenny (Summer 2014)
Kenny Butterill Talks About 'Troubadour Tales':
1. "Good Thing That Couldn't Happen Here": Given my long time admiration of J.J. Cale and my political views, a DJ friend suggested that I write a 'Call Me The Breeze' type morning-drive song for the common man. This tune is the result - a blistering, satirical commentary on how the complicity of Big Business, Big Government and Big Media has damaged our democracies and citizens' rights. Great playing here by my friend John Lee Sanders and Ray Bonneville. This song is dedicated to Amy Goodman, Rachael Maddow, Bill Moyers, Bill Maher, Jeremy Skahill, Walter Cronkite, Noam Chomsky, Pierre Trudeau and all the other ethical folks I have admired who do and did look out 'for the common people'.
2. "Gaia Blues": A song about mankind's connection to the Earth and the perils of ignoring the warnings of Mother Earth (Gaia). Absolutely amazing harmonica by Donovan on this - he actually did a harp duet with my vocal. It was humbling and a really great thrill to have him on this record. An interesting bit of synchronicity happened here. On my last CD I wrote a song about legendary Texas songwriter Townes Van Zandt ("The Townes You Left Behind"). Here's the kicker - the only other time Donovan ever played harmonica for anyone else's album was for Townes Van Zandt. Since this is a siren song about such a serious, urgent issue, I got my album guests to sing on the last verse like a 'We Are The World' choir. The angel singing in the choir is Audrey Auld, while Zoe Muth weighed in with a fantastic harmony vocal during the regular verses.
3. "Old Man And The Kid": A song about empathy, seeing yourself in others, giving someone a hand up or some wise counsel or a shoulder when the blues come calling. I co-wrote this song with Kenny Feinstein, a young, talented music virtuoso, on a sailboat out on Monterey Bay.
4. "Flying With Buddha": A spiritual (not religious) song about the impermanence of life and being comfortable with death, reincarnation, etc., based on my study of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I am not a Buddhist per se, but I lean that way. I am grateful to Robert Gass for permitting me to use the Tibetan Monks Chant as the introduction to this song. Great guests on this include friends Cindy Cashdollar, Redd Volkaert, Ray Bonneville and John Lee Sanders.
5. "Cyrano's Song": A romantic love song that the 16th century fictional swordsman Cyrano de Bergerac would have sung to Roxanne (the princess he served), if he'd had the courage. Cyrano was a childhood hero to one of my heroes - former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. As I studied Cyrano, he became a hero to me too - a man who does his own thing with class and grace, no matter what people think, and who was also a great romantic poet. Fantastic acoustic guitar here from David Grier, one of the best in the world. Smooth, angelic harmony by Zoe Muth added just the right touch.
6. "Hocus Pocus": My homage/tribute to J.J. Cale, a hero to many. This minor chord shuffle song was recorded three weeks before J.J. Cale passed away in 2013. Fantastic playing here by my good friends John Lee Sanders and Ray Bonneville. John Lee also did the perfect harmony vocal. We got some really great feedback from Cale's colleagues, friends and fans on this tune. Cale's long-time friend and colleague, producer David Teegarden, mastered this CD at David's studio in Tulsa, OK. David said 'This is one of the best albums I have ever heard. I know Cale would have liked it."
7. "Pajaro Dunes": A romantic escapism song about stealing away to an enchanting place and closing out the world to be far from the maddening crowd. I sometimes come off the Santa Cruz, CA mountains where I live, to stay at Pajaro Dunes, which is right on the Pacific Ocean. Just hanging out for a few days to 'chillax', walk the beach and do some songwriting.
8. "Dead End Of The Dirt Road": A tune about the splendor and peaceful serenity of living the simple life; this is a co-write with my good friend, Washboard Hank. In early 2013, about a month after Hank visited me at my home off the beaten path in the Santa Cruz Mountains, I flew to Toronto and Hank picked me up and drove me to my Balsam Lake cottage North of Toronto, Canada wherein we stayed up late and, ironically, wrote this song about where I live back in California. Having Audrey Auld sing harmony with me on this was terrific.
9. "The Greatest Love Story Never Told": A deep, romantic love song about how true love transcends sentient life and the lessons that can be learned about following your heart, honoring your soul and being attentive to the signpost of the Universe while we're on this journey here on Earth. The harmony vocals are from the late, great Sarah Elizabeth Campbell. This was the last recording Sarah did before she passed away in late 2013. Amazing performances by David Grier on acoustic guitar and Cindy Cashdollar on steel guitar.
10. "True North": A song about love and my back-and-forth life between Santa Cruz, California and my Balsam Lake cottage in Canada and missing my gal back in California when I'm at my cottage. My buddy Ray Bonneville turned in a great performance including harmony vocals. When we were listening to the tune in the studio, Ray said: 'You know, we sound pretty good together'. Hope ya'll agree.
11. "Willie We Miss Ya": A tribute song to Willie P. Bennett - a close friend and one of the biggest supporters of my music who passed away in 2008, which is when I wrote this tune. Willie P. was one of Canada's most beloved songwriters and performers. We all miss him dearly. When he came to visit me at my Balsam Lake cottage (in Canada) back in 2006 he brought me one of his Harmony writing guitars as a housewarming gift! I wrote many of the songs for this CD with that guitar. Willie P. is memorialized in our hearts and at the Land of Medicine Buddha in Soquel, California where his name is engraved on one of the biggest Buddhist prayer wheels in the world. World renowned dobro player Rob Ickes and mandolin virtuoso John Reischman turned in great performances here. It was wonderful to have Linda McRae and Washboard Hank, also friends of Willie's, sing harmony on the chorus with me. Willie We Miss Ya!
12. "Woman In A Canoe": A dreamy, romantic inspirational song of love and about never giving up, no matter what! The painting of the 'Woman In Canoe' in the CD booklet was done for me by the great California artist Richard M. Bennett.
13. "Good Thing That Couldn't Happen Here" (Extended Bonus Track): Extended version of track 1. Great playing on extended breaks & ride out by good friends John Lee Sanders & Ray Bonneville.
Written by Kenny Butterill & Johanna J. Bodde - September 23rd, 2014.