The John Butler Trio’s latest offering, Grand National, is bluesy, folksy and funky with a bluegrass feel that makes the Australians often sound like a stripped-down Dave Matthews Band. Like any good bar band, their music feels energetic yet not groundbreaking, although they do manage to fit in unexpected social and political statements.Grand National is big on guitars-strumming, picking, jamming-opening with the twang of a banjo in the southern-flavored “Better Than.” Tracks like the jaded “Gov Did Nothin'” and “Used to Get High” illustrate the Trio’s contempt for apathy. The intelligent “Good Excuse” sounds pop-friendly but ridicules whiny teen indifference, with Butler singing. “ing “Boy won’t you turn your Gameboy off / Stop pretending it’s you against the world.”
The album’s only two low-key tracks work nicely. The simple “Losing You” is a sweet song of love and devotion with just Butler’s vocals and guitar accompaniment. The orchestration for “Caroline,” a track about a tragic girl who was “looking for love that she never found,” is lovely. The otherwise catchy country influence on Grand National makes the John Butler Trio sound thoughtful and (generally) positive.