TBT – “Paul Butterfield’s Better Days” Is Lost Gem That Shines Brightly
Editor’s Note: Today would have been Paul Butterfield’s 73rd birthday. This look back at a lost blues gem by Paul Butterfield’s newly formed group, Better Days, was originally published on August 20th of this year.
By the beginning of the ’70s, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band had run its course and was winding down. After spending some time in Woodstock, New York, Butterfield appeared again on the blues scene with his new project, Paul Butterfield’s Better Days.
This band’s members were premier musicians, and their work leaves no doubt about this. The band consists of Butterflied – harp, piano, and vocals, Amos Garrett and Geoff Muldaur on guitars, Chris Parker – drums, Billy Rich – bass, and Ronnie Barron on keyboards. Butterfield, Muldaur, and Barron all performed vocals, and all are solid. The horn section is pretty amazing as well.
This project is every inch that The Paul Butterfield Blues Band had been, but in a different vein. Butterfield’s musical tastes and sensibilities were evolving, along with the context in which he envisioned his music. There is not necessarily a retreat or estrangement from the Chicago style, but instead an inclusion of other directions explored.
Paul Butterfield’s Better Days as issued on the Bearsville Records, Inc. label BR 2119 in 1973 contains nine tracks, running just over 37 minutes. The album covers a lot of ground, and thankfully so. The opener, “New Walking Blues” is a great contrast to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s Chicago rendition, performed here with a wonderful funky beat, featuring Butterfield on electric piano and harp, and Amos Garrett and Geoff Muldaur on guitars. It’s an alternate perspective, well executed.
Other stand out tracks include the soulful and mellow “Please Send Me Someone to Love.” The lightly jazzy sounds of “Broke My Baby’s Heart” are just the ticket for what ails you on a tough day. The almost swampy gospel take on “Baby Please Don’t Go” is a revelation indeed, bringing joy to the soul. The group’s take on “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” luxuriates in the beautiful electric piano washes of Ronnie Barron, and the choir’s vocal evokes memories of songs sung in fields and churches.
Paul Butterfield’s Better Days grabs our attention effortlessly. Before we realize, we are enveloped by the music here as it cascades through us, leaving only warmth in its wake. This is a thoughtful, brilliant work of art, and should be shared at every opportunity. Spread the word, and spread the joy!