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Jonathan Butler: Do You Love Me?

Jonathan Butler’s gently meditative style ranks him among the most impressive players currently on the scene, which is part of the reason why his uneven albums, like the newly released Do You Love Me? (N2K Encoded Music N2K-10005; 53:00) can be so frustrating. On the one hand, Butler’s compositions can be lean and inventive, like the dark-toned “Song for Elizabeth”-but he also tends to dip into more conventional over-ornamented territory…particularly on vocal tunes, like the album’s title track. As appealing as Butler’s elastic tenor can be, his vocally-centered compositions are his most bland and ordinary. Instrumental cuts like the bubbly, inspirational “New Life” (with a guitar line so bright it almost sings) and the playful, loping “Dancing on the Shore” are far more inventive and appealing. The most notable exception here is the leaner, somewhat bluesy vocal track, “Lost to Love,” proving that Butler can meet in the middle. Once he can reconcile his two conflicting approaches, we should have some truly inspired work in store.

Originally Published