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This Little Underground: Matt Butcher goes rock & roll

Live reviews: Deer Tick, Have Gun, Will Travel, Langhorne Slim & the Law

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Last time, we were tripping balls in the psychedelic outlands. This week, it’s a return to Earth with roots music for a good harvest.

The Beat

Between the beloved, scene-making legacy of the Heathens and his accomplished solo work, Matt Butcher left a deep impression on our indie scene while here. From the mid-2000s until 2011, when he relocated to Nashville, he was Orlando’s reigning prince of Americana. However, though his unmistakable appearance is unchanged, you’d hardly recognize the guy on his recent return visit (May 14, Backbooth).

First, there’s the accent. Did you know he’s an Englishman? Me neither, and I’ve known him for years. Well, apparently, he is. Born in Birmingham, England, he’s actually getting back to his roots and, he tells me, is feeling much more in his natural skin again. So next time you hear him talk, don’t give him that sideways look you gave Madonna when she started doing “the accent.”

And then there’s the music. He has a new vehicle – Matt Butcher and the Schoolyard Band – and it’s very much a new chapter. His easy drawl is still in effect, but Butcher has gone rock & roll, kids. Yes, this nice, lean trio is a straight-up, old-fashioned, rubber-burning rock & roll band. And to be completely frank, it’s a very welcome bit of levity and juice to Butcher’s sound. He tells me he’s rediscovered the fun in making music, and the greatest testament to this project is that it totally looks and sounds like it. In fact, I’ve never seen him truly rock on stage before this.

My guitar: Photos from Matt Butcher and the Schoolyard Band at Backbooth

Butcher is known for taking himself seriously. It’s what drove him to hone his craft, adding value and depth to his music. But he has occasionally sagged under his own self-imposed weight. Now in a high-quality, good-time band, however, melodrama is a memory. And if it starts to creep back in, he can just burn it all up in a guitar blaze. That’s all the more reason to get serious about Matt Butcher again.

In sound and following, Deer Tick (May 13, the Social) is getting bigger and bigger. Although committed to a roots aesthetic, their modern music has always been wide in scope. And in its ever-expanding reach, they continue to show their restless vitality and deepen the case for John McCauley’s perfectly cracked voice as one of this generation’s greats.

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