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Frozen Favorites from the Upper Bayou, the new CD by the Butanes is now available.

An edited version of the liner notes:

12 Frozen Favorites from the Upper Bayou is a collection of songs born of an unlikely chain of events that led a Minneapolis-based blues band to acquire a unique affinity for the music of the people residing at the opposite end of the Mississippi River. The rhythms of New Orleans and the bayous that surround it are, at this point, second nature to this group of northerners, and this album is the proof. 

Since the 1980’s, the Butanes have been widely recognized as without peer among Minnesota-based blues bands. With relatively few personnel changes since the mid-80’s, the band plays with an easy authority forged by decades of gigs at bars, concert halls and festival stages. Prior to starting the band, bandleader Curtis Obeda had served an apprenticeship playing guitar in the legendary Hubert Sumlin’s band in Chicago. 

In late 1989, a club manager asked the Butanes if they could be persuaded to back New Orleans guitarist and singer Earl King. The band agreed, though such a job would require considerably more preparation than performing with a 12-bar Chicago blues man. 

Their efforts paid off, as King’s two-night stand was a triumph on stage, while off stage a friendship began to emerge between King and the band. More Twin Cities gigs with King followed, as did gigs backing other New Orleans-based artists such as James “Thunderbird” Davis. Proof of the Butanes’ mastery of the gumbo that is New Orleans R & B came in the form of an invitation from King to back him at his most important performance of the year – his annual appearance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in April, 1991. Although that particular appearance was rained out, for the ensuing eleven years, Earl King chose the Butanes over the fine musicians readily available in the Crescent City to play his Jazz Fest set. In 1993, the Butanes found themselves serving as King’s band for a month-long European tour. Throughout the 90’s and into the new millennium, the Butanes stayed for weeks at a time in New Orleans, spending the nights traveling the streets and frequenting the places that tourists never see, typically in the company of King and his long-time friend, soul singer Tony Owens. They spent time with countless musicians, chefs and other denizens of the night.

Others began to take note of the unusually fine feel that the Butanes had for Crescent City music, including Black Top owner Hammond Scott. After the release, in 1993, of King’s third Black Top album, Hard River To Cross, discussions turned to having the Butanes play with King on his next album. King also proposed that the Butanes follow that with an album of their own on Black Top. 

Aside from their relationship with King, the Butanes developed special relationships with other Louisiana musicians. Lafayette-based soul singer Dalton Reed had barely released his first album for the Rounder label in 1991, Louisiana Soul Man, when the Butanes heard it, loved it and made arrangements for Reed to perform in the Twin Cities. It was his first trip outside the state of Louisiana. His show, before a packed house and with the Butanes providing impassioned accompaniment, was transcendent. The Butanes also forged a bond with renowned zydeco accordionist Al Rapone. The Butanes not only backed Rapone on numerous tours, but also backed him on his album, Al Rapone Plays Tribute. The list of Louisiana artists with whom the Butanes have played over the years is impressive by any standard, and includes King Floyd, Tommy Ridgley, Tony Owens, Carol Fran & Clarence Holliman, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, Oliver “Who Shot The La La” Morgan and Mighty Sam McClain.

The heady days of annual appearances at Jazz Fest, and the camaraderie with Earl King and his like may now be in the rear-view mirror, but the hold that the music of New Orleans has on this band does not easily release its grip. This album of songs, all written by Obeda, is a testament to that. Just as the music of New Orleans and Louisiana is many-faceted, so is this collection of songs. You will hear the nasty syncopation of New Orleans funk, the full-throated horn charts of classic New Orleans R & B, the story telling so prevalent in Crescent City song craft (especially the songs of Earl King) and even an excursion into accordion-driven zydeco. Oh, and for good measure, the band has included one of the tracks originally recorded in the 90’s for its Black Top Records demo. My advice: get some fresh boiled crawfish and crack a bottle of Abita, because here you have the soundtrack for your next party.

Tad Selzer, The Rockhouse
KFAI-FM, Minneapolis-St. Paul...

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The Butanes



We're looking for photos, audio or videotapes of the Butanes performing with a variety stars:
Gene Chandler, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Don & Dewey, King Floyd, Rosco Gordon, Mable John, Ben E. King, Bettye Lavette, Mighty Sam McClain, The Memphis Horns, Milwaukee Slim, Francine Reed, Percy Strothers, Little Johnny Taylor, Lee "Shot" Williams or even things pertaining to artists that we already have in our web pages. e-mail us if you've got 'em!


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