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Henry Butler: Homeland

Butler opens this album with his strongest shot, two examples of his infectious New Orleans-style boogie piano: “Jump to the Music” and “Henry’s Boogie.” These Butler originals pull you into the center of his rhythmically charged riffs, dizzy swirls and decorative sprinkles. Farther along, “Hey, Little Girl” (a bow to Fats Domino), “Some Iko,” “The Game Band Strut” and “Ode to Fess” (a tribute to Professor Longhair, a major influence on Butler) return to this feeling.

The remainder of this 12-tune set, while less enticing, offers additional perspectives. “The Way We Loved,” a ballad with a beat, and the title cut contain vocals by Butler that tilt toward the preachy side of soulful. The R&B classic “I Stand Accused” is a better vocal track. “Casino,” a plodding blues, resurrects the Muddy Waters beat. Throughout the disc, Butler, true to the New Orleans tradition, nails down a solid, well-defined rhythmic foundation, from boogie to ballad.

The sidemen include guitarist Vasti Jackson, bassist Nick Daniels III and drummer Raymond Weber. Although given scarce solo room, their ensemble work is on the money, their grooves always in the pocket. Here and there, Butler employs the keyboard synthesizer. No harm done, but real strings and real horns can’t be beat.

Originally Published