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Paul Butterfield

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Peter N
Jan 13, 2009 11:47 PM GMT
Hey Everybody,
I would like to know what do you think about this player, his style and his music. Personaly I have to say that he is one of the best players I ever heard. He is a very strong influence for me and my playing. His tone, very specific vibrato and to me something like a difrent way of playing makes him totaly difrent from other players.
I can listen his solos from "drifting blues" and "everything is gonna be all right" from his live album for hours.Just a genius!


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Comments (31)

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Jan 14, 2009 12:55 AM GMT
Zack P Replied:

Peter, those are amazing recordings. I love and hate him. Depends on the day. But I agree, one of the bests, he was one of the speed innovators but wasn't very good with any other positions. But, he got me into playing except for some Muddy and "Roadhouse Blues" by The Doors. Good stuff!

Jan 14, 2009 9:22 AM GMT
Manlio Replied:

I love the early years of the Butterfield band. I think he was a really good and innovative harp player but I think his late works are a little bit over-rated. He was an awesome singer and a strong musician but the departure of Bloomfield was a major hit and Butterfield's project lost originality after it, moving toward easier territories like standard r&b and rock.

Anyway I prefer listening to him electrified, when he played acoustic he was a lot weaker

Jan 14, 2009 3:57 PM GMT
Zack P Replied:

Manlio I totally agree. That electric sound was great. Horn bands are cool, but it wasn't that original for me.

Jan 14, 2009 3:58 PM GMT
Zack P Replied:

I wish Electric Flag would have lasted!!!

Jan 15, 2009 6:50 AM GMT
Civet Cat Replied:

I have to disagree with Manillo here and side with Peter. I think the two live cuts you mentioned from that double 1971 album are virtually unbeatable examples of lyrical harmonica improvisation at it's best. Amazing tone, swing for days, soul ozzing everywhere, raw, power, unique tone, brand new idiosyncratic underivative licks. Butter was in top flight on this as well as "Live at Winter Land and some of the later studio albums as well. To me the early stuff is great but it's Butter warming up for the fully relized self he became. He was so Unique and like DeLay had a sound and way of playing that was so differant almost none of it could be trace back to the older innovaters of the music!

Dig it same time period! i'm still in love with this as the first time I saw it 20 years ago! Great subject!

Jan 15, 2009 7:22 AM GMT
Civet Cat Replied:

Hey Manillo: Also what about "One More heart Ache" for acoustic tone? Plus original song writing! Plus Elvin Bishop, Ralph Wash, and Amos garret were wickedly innovative guitar guys that I think were even cooler than Bloomfield...I respect your opinion but I think you should give those ater works one more listen especially those live ones...

Jan 15, 2009 9:16 AM GMT
Manlio Replied:

I see your point Jason, but what I mean is that something like "Better Days" is a nice album but nothing that makes me jump out of my sit like the first time I've heard... DMB for instance or Soul Coughin, just to name two monster bands. The first two Butterfield album had me jumping around, not the lasts. Elvin Bishop started breathing after Mike left, in my opinion of course, the differences among the two were too big and Bloomfield's presence was really cumbersone i think.

I think I've listened thousands of time at Butterfield music in the last 16 years, I don't criticise the skills of the musicians, I simply think the product was way less exciting than the first works. Like they said: they were pop art, they were pop art when they were playing Mary Mary for instance... there are not such songs in the later works.

OOOps the boss is around, I'll write again later...

Jan 15, 2009 5:50 PM GMT
Zack P Replied:

Eh, Elvin more innovative? His playing was sort of just playing. Don't know much about Amos. But, listen to Bloomfield AFTER Butterfield and you will understand Tone and skills. He pushed the Butterfield Band further into raw power sound.

I do not like "East-West" the album, and think Harmonica ruined the song as it just didn't work for how he did it (though now we know it could work on account of Levy, etc) but Michael's playing was crazy stuff.

But Jason I agree, that live album is great, some bad tracks, but Everything's Gonna Be Alright and Drifting Blues are amazing. Probably the best example of acoustic tone for a lip purser. But, listen to "Put It In Your Ear," and his later later albums. Not good at all; way too overproduced.

Jan 19, 2009 1:36 PM GMT
Manlio Replied:

Uhm "East-West" is one of my all time favourite albums and the best expression of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band IMHO. And about Levy, shure is a master but I think he simply wouldn't fit in a tune like East WEst... too mellow, elegant and well educated. I love the way Butterfeield's harp rush in the song, screaming and kicking. It's like running at night in the crowd being on acid... scary and beautiful at the same time and completely ignorant too (in the good meaning of the word ).

I can affirm Levy is a master, I'm not into his stuff tough, simply is too far away from my tastes. Thinkin' about Levy playing this stuff, to me it's like thinkin' about John McLaughling in place of Bloomfield... naaaaaah :)

Jan 19, 2009 10:19 PM GMT
Civet Cat Replied:

yeah Zach but even "Put in your ear" has gems on it like "The Breadline" . Everything has great poop on it somewhere.. "In my Own dream" has a gourgeous harp solo's all through it. I just love all the stuff and it's all equaly relevant to me...all of it, like steps on a ladder and for the most part with the exception of a the one you mentioned and the one with the red corvette I think they just got better and better...he was growing, so was music, janis traded Big Brother for the Cosmic boogie band the Full Tilt...I bet Manilio likes Big Brother...I like 'em both for differant reasons...differant songs, differant moods, differant, objectives/ends differant players all the same to me.

Jan 20, 2009 12:19 AM GMT
Zack P Replied:

I love the Breadline, but the albums weren't so strong. I think he was at his best around early-mid seventies.

Jan 20, 2009 10:43 PM GMT
Zack P Replied:

Manlio, never liked that album. Don't know why. But, sure, maybe not Levy, but someone who could have really let it rip.

Jan 20, 2009 11:05 PM GMT
Chris M Replied:

never got into Butterfield. I've tried but I can't stand his playing. Too rough and sloppy for my tastes. And his vibrato drives me nuts.

Gimmie Jason Ricci any day over butterball.

Jan 20, 2009 11:44 PM GMT
Manlio Replied:

"he was growing, so was music" that's where we see it different :) for me it was a step back

"janis traded Big Brother for the Cosmic boogie band the Full Tilt...I bet Manilio likes Big Brother..."

yeah here you got the point :D

Jan 20, 2009 11:59 PM GMT
Zack P Replied:

I love all Joplin. :)

Jan 22, 2009 9:26 PM GMT
Diggs Replied:

Butterfield is one my favorites. His emotion is incredible. His
playing is almost like a voice to me.

Jan 23, 2009 11:45 AM GMT
Kingley Replied:

Butterfields "All these blues" is probably my favourite track of his.

Jan 23, 2009 11:52 AM GMT
HARPMAN Replied:

"everything is gonna be all right" is my favourite tune.

I have Shure 545s mic.

Jan 24, 2009 3:11 PM GMT
Shawn R Replied:

I still love Butterfield! For me- one of the first players that really blew me away. I think it's his timing (very synchopated) and his intensity. Maybe not a technical player, but simply the Blues--Personified!

Jan 24, 2009 4:26 PM GMT
Bluesie Replied:

Where would be harmonica for us if no Cotton or Butterfield. My first blues album was Butterfield's at age 17. I'm 55. I only started to play a year and a half but, have that sound in my head from these days. The eponyme album is my prefered! Better days is retroactive IMHO. He had better days. As he became an icon, he became bigger in his head... Bloomfield was a great guitar player but both choose a bad road...

Jan 29, 2009 6:36 PM GMT
AirMojo (Ken H) Replied:

Gotta love Butterfield! His opening solo on "Everything's Going to Be All Right" is one of my favorites! I even made an MP3 file of just the solo so I could listen to it over and over.

Always loved his version of "Mystery Train" that he played with "The Band" (The Last Waltz). Probably one of the first Butterfield songs that I listened to when I first started playing harmonica.

And how about that "Nut Popper #1" ?

I was hoping there would've been a #2 (logical enuff), but alas there never was.

Jan 30, 2009 2:37 PM GMT
Ray B Replied:

Anyone on this thread ever see Butterfield perform live? Besides myself? I'm 62 and saw him perform in Dec. 1968 at the Miami Pop Festival. Some players live shows just have it all over their albums/cds. I think Jason and others on this site could attest to that. Butterfield was that way.

Jan 30, 2009 7:07 PM GMT
Hammik Replied:

I got my first Butterfield album about a month after I started playing the harmonica. I heard "Work Song" on the train coming back from school and it inspired me to run home and practice alot more than I had been. I personally really dig all of his live work and think the album with Muddy is tough to top.

Feb 02, 2009 3:03 PM GMT
Diggs Replied:

Saw him at the Atlantic city rock festival a week before Woodstock and at the Electric Factory in Philly with the In My Own Dream line up. Always electriic and eclectic.


Feb 02, 2009 7:51 PM GMT
dennis m Replied:

Like a lot of people will comment I loved Butterfield's almost vocal playing. For me the live version of Drifting and Drifting made me want to hug the speakers and not let go during his solo. That and Christo R. by Charlie M. going back decades for both. On a human plane I had a great letdown when I met him at Folk City in NYC near his end. His playing (no matter how nostalgic or romantic I was about his past verve) was anemic as was his personality. Essentially: so what: I know he wasn't born to excite "me" with either his playing or personality. But it did leave me like a kid confused with reconciling past and present. My best. dennis

Feb 03, 2009 1:05 AM GMT
Zack P Replied:

Ray and Diggs, that rocks that you saw him!!!

Feb 03, 2009 5:42 PM GMT
snakeman r Replied:

paul was taught mostly by Cotton and i have had many conversations with cotton about paul ,paul sounded unique because as Cotton told me never try to sound like anyone but yourself ,this he also told paul ,Cotton had this agument with muddy when he took little walters spot in muddys band and muddy wanted him to sound like walter ,cotton told muddy "i can sound like walter ,but i can also sound like James Cotton "
it was a shame that heroin took paul over and ended his life ,imagine where he would be today .

Feb 07, 2009 1:29 AM GMT
Madcat Replied:

When ever you heard Butterfield on someone else's record you could tell right away that it was Butterfield. He had his own sound.
I only saw him live once. It was a triple bill: BB King + Albert KIng + Paul Butterfield. What a night!

Aug 06, 2010 2:56 AM GMT
Bulldog B Replied:

Just ran across this post. I'm also 62, and saw Butterfield at the Fillmore in S.F. twice, circa 1967 -1968. Once with his band, and again as a surprise guest at an all night New Year's Eve show there. Amazing sight at that New Year's party - someone was playing harp (Cotton? Little Walter?) and in the middle of the solo Paul Butterfield stepped out on stage, took the mike from him (and possibly the harp also?) and started playing. Playing thru the same setup, his tone was completely, completely different. Goes to show that it isn't all about the equipment. Like a lot of people my age I learned to play by listening to Paul Butterfield, Mick Jagger (he played harp on his first few albums), Van Morrison, Jimmie Reed, and Keith Rolf (from the Yardbirds). Rolf is the most underestimated harp player of all time in my opinion. In the 60's, most of us considered James Cotton and Little Walter as minor league players with an unrefined sound that sounded pretty rough compared to the slick product (Beatles, Beach Boys, etc.) that we were used to.

Oct 01, 2010 9:24 PM GMT
Guy D Replied:

I saw Paul Butterfield live in Atlantic City, at the Fillmore East on a show with Elvin Bishop's band and Albert King; andin Lambertville, NJ with Buzzy Feiten on guitar. He was great all 3 times. I think younger players might be kind of taking Butterfield for granted as just another harp player they may or may not like that much compared to some other players. But for me and, I'll bet many others out there, the first Butterfield Blues Band LP was totally life changing. There was no harmonica played like that up to that point. It was a totally new sound and energy. I've been asked what album hooked me on harmonica and I reply that I was hooked by the first song (hell, the first few bars) of the first song (Born in Chicago, of course) of an album.

Oct 02, 2010 3:42 PM GMT
Jim f Replied:

Butterfield is on of my favorite players. There are so many great recordings he made over the years from Born in Chicago on. Sure there are some mediocre albums along the way. But listen to him on Fathers and Sons with Muddy Waters, his tone on The same Thing (which is a live recording) is tremendous. I love The Work Song on East West. How about his solo on Under the Falling sky with Bonnie Raitt, two notes and you know it could be no one else but Paul. The accoustic sound on Better Days is beautiful to my ear, check out Baby Please Don't Go. And possibly my favorite is the Woodstock Album with Muddy Waters; his playing on Going Downtown and Caledonia flows so smooth , it's like, well Buttah!! I just love his playing.

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