CD: 12 songs; 49:39 Minutes
Styles: R & B, Zydeco, Jazz-and-Soul-Influenced Blues
What gives a lighter its bright flame, and is also an R&B band of Minneapolis fame? The Butanes! Even though they’re from Minnesota, one might think that they hailed straight from New Orleans after listening to their eighth album, 12 Frozen Favorites from the Upper Bayou. Headed by former Chicago bluesman Curtis Obeda, who served a guitarist’s apprenticeship in Hubert Sumlin’s band, the Butanes also feature John Lindberg on bass and vocals, drummer Robb Stupka, Virgil Nelson on accordion and Hammond organ, Bruce McCabe on upright piano, and vocalists Deb Brown and Aisha Baker. Their fantastic horn section includes Michael B. Nelson on trombone, Sue Orfield on tenor sax, Steve Strand on trumpet and coronet, and Kenni Holmen on baritone sax and clarinet. All together, they present twelve magical and original songs that evoke the spirit of the opposite end of the Mississippi River. The final one, “Yeah, Right”, was originally recorded in 1995, with horns added in 1998. Special guest stars on that number are drummer Dan Hostetler, Jim Greenwell on tenor and baritone sax, trumpeter Brad Shermock, and vocalist Bob Scoggins. The following three tunes are the finest of them all:
Track 03: “Be Careful What You Wish For” – This pure-soul sensation might be far better advice to recent graduates than Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” Its message? “You start wishing for something and don’t realize the cost: For everything gained, there’s always something lost. Experience has shown me plans are made to change, and best intentions don’t mean a doggone thing.” Check out the sizzling saxophone solo in the middle, which can’t be beat.
Track 04: “Amy is a Gold Digger” – Proving the point of the previous selection is track number four. Wealthy gentlemen might be looking for love, but when it comes to the titular character, “Amy got married while still eighteen, to a man who was seventy-three. The old man’s family never understood that Amy was treating the old man good. Couple years later the man was dead. The family was surprised when the will was read…” This song’s a Zydeco-fest with lots of accordion zest by Virgil Nelson.
Track 09: “B.S. (Bob’s Song)” – Believe it or not, there’s a trap worse than gold-digging Amy: an “evil woman” who has a drone named Bob in her clutches. Bob’s best friend describes them both thus: “She must have a magic box, but what’s inside? Seems to be something that takes away a good man’s pride. My friend used to have a spine and a mind that could think; now he crawls on his belly whenever she blinks.” Listen closely for Steve Strand’s “blah-blah-blah” trumpet, a la Charlie Brown’s teacher.
The Butanes may not be pure blues a la Howlin’ Wolf or even James Armstrong, but they capture the distilled essence of NOLA in “12 Frozen Favorites”!