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Jonathan Butler: Surrender

Driven by a gentle, optimistic spirit flowing through music and lyric, Jonathan Butler’s Surrender (Warner Bros.) is a transporting, joyful listen. On his first Warner label release, Butler strikes a perfect balance between world-beat undertones, universal themes and modern melodic hooks, all voiced in his trademark spindly guitar phrasings and soft-to-ebullient vocals. Butler mines old-soul as well as Afro-traditional styles for tunes like “Wake Up,” a laid-back yet bubbly carnival piece featuring clipped South African rhythms backing a purring organ, sharp horn accents and gliding nylon guitarwork. The strutting wonderment of “This Is Love” finds Butler singing in the awe-struck style of Stevie Wonder as he exclaims, without irony, “Thank you, love, for the joy you gave to me.” Glossier tunes, such as the midnight ballad “Surrender,” avoid the temptation to overlayer, and instead open up to Butler’s dense, emotionally packed guitar phrases. Butler’s graceful guitar work lends hope even to the bittersweet emotion of “Back to Love,” and partners particularly well with the padded percussion flow of “Pata Pata” and blissful woodwinds populating “River of Life.”

Originally Published