Drawing from the likes of The Jayhawks, Old 97s, Uncle Tupelo and (perhaps inadvertently) Steely Dan, Destination Blues, the sophomore album from Butchers Blind, is a taught collection of vignettes detailing post-college dread, middle age meditation and characters knowingly past their prime. From the modern day Willy Loman of the album opener, “Nobody Hears What I Say Anymore,” to a Friday night tour of New York on the closer, “Burn Up Bright (Lower East Side),” it’s the details (“She starts her day with a Class A cigarette”) and little moments (“Caught in the breeze / like the autumn leaves”) that elevate Destination Blues to its own level of authenticity.
Bible-black hair, a cross to bear
A disconnected look on her face
Vodka drinks made her think
That she got away
A rather quaint and somber collection, the vitality of Destination Blues lies in vocalist/guitarist Pete Mancini’s lyrics, the phrasing of which owes much to Dawes. This is most evident on the standout track, “Selfish Silent Films.” Yet in the hands of Mancini and fellow bandmates Paul Cianciaruso (drums/vocals), Brian Reilly (bass) and Christopher Smith (piano), this approach serves to present the songs in a more poetic fashion. The album’s stark undercurrent is kept at arm’s length by backing vocals and harmonies provided by Brandi Hart (Dixie Bee-Liners) and fiddle, mandolin and Hammond organ ably brought forth by additional contributors. These touches, no matter how subtle or stern, add the proper texture to Mancini’s lyrics.
These selfish, silent films in my head
Taking me for a ride again
I leave myself each time they begin
These selfish, silent films won’t end
The distillation of elements past (Tom Petty) and more recent (Nickel Creek) on the album’s first single, “Burn Up Bright (Lower East Side),” demonstrates Butchers Blind are in full control of their familiar yet fresh sound. If any fault can be found with Destination Blues it’s that the band play it a little too clean and practiced. Such characters and subject matter deserve their rough edges. That said, having spent so much time with Destination Blues these past few weeks, the songs which once recalled other bands now seem so well worn they may already be the influence for new bands to come.
Available on 31 August, you can pre-order Destination Blues through Paradiddle Records or stream the album below. Butchers Blind have shows scheduled in their home state of New York through October. Dates are here.