RORY BUTLER – Window Shopping (Vertical Records)

Window ShoppingRory Butler’s Window Shopping is a splendid acoustic folk album that’s infused with a lot of “sweet little mystery”.

Just so you know:

Sir Edmund Hillary (and his Sherpa Tenzing Norgay) were the first people to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. That took guts! Nikolas “Nik” Wallander was the first guy to tightrope across Niagara Falls. Sure, our “Nik” was forced to wear a safety harness, but still, about the guts’ thing – ditto!

Felix Baumgartner skydived and broke the sound barrier at the estimated speed of 1357.64 km per hour. (Thank you, Wikipedia!) Just in case you are interested, he fell at Mach 1.25. And about that guts’ thing again, let’s just say ditto .

Now, with Window Shopping, Rory Butler (on one level) attempts to acknowledge, emulate, and even contribute to the sublime music of fellow Scotsman John Martyn. And, to make an American sit-com reference, remember the words of Jerry Seinfeld to friend George Costanza when our George wanted to say “I love you” to his girlfriend with only a “fifty percent” of a return volley. There was a huge television pause, and then Jerry simply said, “That’s a big matzo ball hangin’ out there”.

And, considering that every soft John Martyn song just ached for a return volley of pure and very acoustic love, Rory Butler’s Window Shopping, with its obvious attempt at standing in the stead of such beauteous “solid air”, against all Phil Collins’ odds, sings to the “head and heart” and the “small hours” that touch the melodic heart of Scottish folk music everywhere.

In other words, Rory Butler is jumping into deep talented waters here, without, I may add, fellow brilliant British folk-rock giant Richard Thompson’s ‘Great Valerio’ and his net.

But, to the music: ‘Tell Yourself’ certainly turned my head. An acoustic guitar (with an almost echo-plex) pulses, while a glorious lead guitar dances over the beat. And then Rory’s melodic and sensitive voice swings from the stars with the earnest love that only ‘Johnny Too Good’ could deliver. Quite frankly, it has the very same joyous cascade as JM’s tune, ‘Over The Hill’. The second song, ‘Lost And Found’, made me double check my Ain’t No Saint John Martyn box set to see if I missed some unreleased gem. Yeah, it’s that heavenly gentle – with a Danny Thompson-like throb of a bass line. This is really quite close to ‘Bless The Weather’ great. Then, ‘Mind Your Business’ swims in the buoyant bliss, as acoustic guitar and vocal smile in perfect simpatico harmony. Oh my! ‘That Side Of The World’ is acoustic guitar perfect, with a vocal and melody that flow in warm undulations sans a GPS system and are filled with unexpected jaunts to unbridled melodies that puff sultry smokes.

Now, ‘Simon Says’ almost quotes ‘May You Never’. But, as my friend, Kilda Defnut, said, “John’s original tune has so love and generosity, it could sire a million other songs”.

Just so you know a bit more: Window Shopping isn’t mere tribute album like the one off (and pretty darn great) Scott Appel’s Nick Drake focused Nine Of Swords or even Thea Gilmore’s side stepping Don’t Stop Singing (with the words of Sandy Denny set to Thea’s music). They are great, as isolated works. But Rory Butler has ingested the past, and resurrects past glories into current passion.

Case in point: ‘Lynda’s Cat’ jives with a Joni Mitchell “juke box dive”. ‘Straight Talking Man’ touches Nick Drake purity and then gets down right throttle opened acoustic bit of a bash. ‘Cigarettes In Silence’ is a song that loves the universe in its single moment’s grasp. It’s a dense and lonely photograph of a song. I am reminded of the loneliness of Ralph McTell’s ‘Slow Burning Companion’.

And, to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance, that imitation is suicide”, which is nice thought; but it’s also of import in “every man’s education” to finally figure out the difference between the words compliment and its step cousin complement. Well, lo and behold(!), Window Sopping does both with the same magic bullet: It certainly compliments the greats of the past, while it (at the very same time) complements those vibrations with a brand-new kindred spirit of immense talent.

That noted, let me just say, the title tune, ‘Window Shopping’ hops with joy. And it, perhaps, echoes the bouncing breath of Paul Simon’s Graceland; and did I mention the glorious backing vocals throughout the record that sing with (to use the word again!) simpatico rain patterned perfection.

The final song, ‘Have I Come Down’, is languid in its confession, but it has a deep root into the Stone of Scone folk rock bed. Passion gets its chance to be personified in the dreamy slow dance of song. It’s a lovely ending, a parachuted tune that strips away the Scottish rain, the spruced melodies of the previous songs, and expels all the complexity of the previous songs, and just sort of lays its heart into much older passionate folk grooves.

Ah – but back to front (as great art often presents itself): Seinfeld’s lovable George Costanza received the stern warning about that “big matzo ball hangin’ out there”. And, as Graham Parker sang, “Passion is no ordinary word”. But the beautiful side of John Martyn just gave love in his music, with magical playing, lyrics that often melt, and a voice that can heal every heartbreak, except, perhaps, his own. Our John sang, “Please fall in love with me”, and he was, indeed, a Glorious Fool.

Thankfully, Rory Butler is willing to climb the mountain, break the sound barrier, walk the tightrope, and with talent extraordinaire, (heedless of any “big matzo ball”) make this deeply emotive, and quite frankly, just plain beautiful folk album.

Bill Golembeski

Artist’s website:

‘Mind Your Business’ – live:

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