The John Butler Trio is Australia’s answer to the Dave Matthews Band, and that is not meant as a jab at the fingerpickin’ Australian and his crew. The trio’s music is reminiscent of Dave Matthews’s early feel-good-rootsy-rock (before they took a turn into the overproduced and overdone). Grand National, the JBT’s third album, stays true to the form of the previous two, only this time with a slightly funkier feel, no doubt in part to producer Mario Caldato Jr. (Beastie Boys, Beck, Jack Johnson). Caldato gives the band a bit more of an edge with out sacrificing any of their acoustic-roots sound. “Funky Tonight”, “Better Than”, and “Good Excuse” leap off the record with a deep groove that is ready made for the summer music-festival circuit. “Daniella”, with its syrupy-sweet lyrics about Butler proposing to his wife, is bound to be on every mix-tape (CD) made for a girlfriend this summer. The band shows signs of growth though with the mature sounding “Devil Running” which adds layers of sound that previously had been foreign on their albums.
There is still the occasional misstep. “Nowhere Man” despite all its good intentions sounds to close to a Jack Johnson song right down to Caldato’s production with ringing chimes in the background. “Caroline” veers dangerously close to the overproduced mentioned earlier. But Grand National is all about love, positive thoughts, and good vibes, and at the end of the day (even with the occasional misstep) that is the kind of recording one wants to hear.