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John Butler – Tin Shed Tales

Catherine May


Recorded in a few intimate venues around rural Australia, Tin Shed Tales really brings out the authenticity in John Butler’s music. In all fairness, John Butler’s not exactly an artist you’d ever describe as ‘commercial’ but with his latest release he really hones in on the rawness of each performance. And by performance, I mean performance. Each track isn’t just a song, it’s a snippet from a live show and is often preceded with an introduction detailing the songs importance.

The tracks themselves are a mixed bunch. An old favourite Zebra fails to disappoint whilst newbie Kimberley really strikes a chord with the listener. Ever the campaigner, John Butler has been a strong voice for the Indigenous communities in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and this track pays homage to the land that’s being fought over by a mining company. “Tell you a story about a girl named Kimberley/Who all the cowboys want because she was wild and free”. The lyrics personify the land to truly emote how much this land means to Butler and the many, many others who support the Save the Kimberley campaign.

The likes of Better Than and Used To Get High from Butler’s 2007 album ‘Grand National’ seem even more personal in the recordings on Tin Shed Tales. Pinjarra isn’t a song, but a lovely story explaining why LA born Butler is so passionate about Australia (his Dad was Australian and they moved to Fremantle when Butler was young). Butler’s family ties are also examined in My Grandfather’s Guitar whilst Mystery Man gets straight into the music with Butler’s heart wrenching melodies.

Over all, it’s a raw album of over twenty tracks with many instrumentals and spoken stories that highlight the unmanufactured nature of Butler’s song-crafting. It teeters on the edge of getting too political, but ultimately that’s what Butler’s fans know and love. A great reminder of how straying from the mainstream can still result in great success.