Brendan L. Butler

Brendan L. Butler

Brendan L. Butler

Killer on the Road

Gern Bladstein

It’s hard to believe that this ghostly road album could come from the former frontman of emo flagship band Boys Life. Brendan Butler disbanded that outfit to form the psyche-country combo Canyon, which in turn, broke up while backing alt. country legend Jay Farrar a couple of years ago. It’s not surprising that, with a career trajectory that very much mirrors Farrar’s, Killer on the Road is similar in sound to Farrar’s recent output. The problem is, Americana is a new playing field for Butler, and he’s more prone to recycling stereotypical aspects of the genre rather than finding a niche of his own. Many of the songs here only feature Butler’s voice and an acoustic guitar, leaving them feeling like unfinished demos begging for accompaniment. When Butler enlists help, as on the beautiful cello-laced title track and the piano honky tonk of “Next Time,” he excels. Left alone, he’s prone to fall into the same strumming pattern fans of the genre have heard too many times before.

The roots of good music are all over this album, but the actual number of songs that feel like complete entities is less than stellar. For a first solo outing, suffering the lack of a band like a phantom limb is forgivable. Butler hasn’t learned to step up his songwriting to fill the void created by his band’s departure. It’s likely he’s got the potential to make a good album on his lonesome, but Killer on the Road is a definitely step down from his work with Canyon. I’m praying for reconciliation.

Gern Bladstein:

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