To understand the refined qualities of the Butanes, all you really have to know is that New Orleans native Earl King, the late singer, guitarist, and eccentric genius who wrote such Crescent City nuggets as "Big Chief" and "Trick Bag," adopted these Minnesotans as his band of choice and took them home to accompany him at such high profile gigs as Jazz Fest. In fact, the Butanes' high regard in elite blues circles is clear from the lengthy list of blues and soul icons they've backed over the years, from Hubert Sumlin to John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley. But even without the big names out front, they ignite a rippling array of blues, R&B, and soul with a distinctly Southern exposure, their gritty passion exuding genuine blues spirit. When Curt Obeda's restless guitar isn't spewing out juicy leads that cry and soar well beyond the standard blues litany, it's spitting a rash of spare rhythms that conspire with the sturdy, just-greasy-enough foundation fashioned by bassist John Lindberg and drummer Robb Stupka. Meanwhile, Virgil Nelson dashes about his piano or draws impressive blues chords from his Hammond B-3 organ. Vocally, Obeda will never be mistaken for Al Green, but he's got his own grainy charm, and he's a fine writer whose tunes easily slide among the classics. Catching the group in action is no problem: The Butanes maintain a busy schedule of live dates, including a regular Wednesday night gig at the Eagles #34 in south Minneapolis that they've played for over a year. Superfine Memphis soul singer Willie Walker is usually on hand for the second set, and there are inevitable surprises too, like an impromptu crawfish boil around Mardi Gras. It's all part of life soaked in the blues.


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