The Butterfield Blues Band – Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin’

Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin’ (1971)


1. Play On 2. 1000 Ways 3. Pretty Woman 4. Little Piece Of Dying 5. Song For Lee 6. Trainman 7. Night Child 8. Drowned In My Own Tears 9. Blind Leading The Blind


UPDATE 4/28/2013: I’m upgrading this to a B. Other than the instrumentals there’s nothing here I dislike, and it’s definitely more listenable than In My Own Dream, which I gave a B- to. Hooray! Here’s my original B- review from like two days ago:

Sometimes I Just Feel Like Jerkin’ Off is the forgotten Butterfield Blues Band record, an album so obscure that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. But that doesn’t make it totally worthless! I don’t have a Wikipedia entry either and I still matter, right? Maybe? *Crickets*

I can’t think of very many interesting things to say about this album, mostly due to being burned out from spending the last month sitting in front of my computer and writing 45,000 pages a day about whether the Drive-By Truckers chord sequences are modal or not. I can barely see straight at this point. Or hear straight, if that turn of phrase made any sense at all (how about “I can barely hear in waveform?” Yeah, that works). What am I reviewing again? I’m just going to assume it’s whatever is coming out of my speakers. The Replacements’ All Shook Down sucks because it has dogs on the cover. Dogs are annoying. Let me go drink some tequila, sleep for eighteen hours, and start over.

Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin’ is the final Butterfield Blues Band album. The band is the same as on Live but mercifully they don’t turn the album into a nine-hour jam. Instead, they contain themselves and play nine soul/blues/rock songs in just under forty minutes. They’ve also added female backup singers and returned to the democratic approach of In My Own Dream – featured are three songs written and sung by Paul Butterfield, two instrumentals, one song each written and sung by Gene Dinwiddie and Rod Hicks, respectively, and two covers sung by members of the band not named Paul Butterfield. Paul doesn’t play much harp either.

I really like the overall sound, though. If seven out of nine of the songs themselves weren’t either generic, middling compositions, dull, jazzy instrumentals, or a completely faithful (and thus pointless) cover of the Ray Charles classic “Drowned In My Own Tears,” I would definitely give it a solid B. What is this sound, you ask? OK, imagine Exile On Main St. era Rolling Stones, right? You know, blues based songs with horns and backup singers? Then imagine all the greasy Keith Richards/Mick Taylor guitar interplay being replaced by like forty unnecessary bongo drums and one jerk off with the most vanilla guitar tone of all time flicking almost inaudibly around the edges. That’s basically what this album sounds like. All loose and funky like, and if Ralph Walsh were laying on a wah pedal instead of limply twiddling around like a nerd, parts could probably pass for some secondhand Shaft funk. Too bad any possibility of actually rocking is eliminated by the weak ass guitar.

On the bright side, there are two songs I really like a lot! Gene Dinwiddie’s “Trainman” is the clear standout here, a rock solid Wurlitzer driven groove track with an eminently singable chorus. It’s a hell of a lot of fun! So is Paul’s super Stonesy, lazy, feel-good piano blues “Blind Leading The Blind” – Ralph Walsh even throws in some nice countryish licks. It’s kind of the perfect capper to the Butterfield Blues Band’s career, as it gives a pretty good indication of what was happening to the Woodstock generation at the time. “It was blind leading the blind/When my baby and I drank wine… On a Sunday afternoon, we get high and watch the news.” That’s what all those hippie musicians were up to… sitting around smoking doobies (and often a lot more than that), their social and political urgency, along with the virility and grit of their earlier music, slowly fading from memory as drugs and laziness took over. “Blind Leading The Blind” is a lovely surface snapshot of the most comfortable parts of this new state of mind, and frankly I can’t think of few things I’d rather do right now than sit on the couch with my baby and a glass of wine. But it also makes it clear that the 60s, and along with them, Paul Butter’s best days, were over.

But not his BETTER DAYS!

That was a little joke for all you Paul Butterfield’s Better Days fans out there. You know who you are!

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