CD Review of Letters by Butch Walker

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starstarstarstarhalf star Label: Sony
Released: 2004

Butch Walker, former Marvelous 3 front man, has parted ways with Arista and his first release on Epic is not surprisingly a little different than his 2002 solo debut, Left of Self-centered. Gone are the walls of guitars and some of the gang harmonies, and even the goofy bonus tracks that would make a grown man laugh so hard he’d piss his pants. Lucky for all of us that with Butch, it is and always has been about the songs. Letters is a stripped-down collection of the same type of writing we’ve come to expect from Butch -- clever lyrics, tight arrangements and production, and melodies that are as addictive as anything that’s come along in the last several decades.

“Maybe It’s Just Me” sets the tone and proves that Butch doesn’t need all those guitars to present a great song. It might just be his catchiest song to date, and that’s saying a lot. “Mixtape” is about aligning relationships with the creation of mixed tapes, something so many of us can relate to. “#1 Summer Jam” is a timeless pop song, and “So At Last” has a lounge feel that displays one thing we might tend to forget, that Walker simply has a great voice.

“Uncomfortably Numb” and “Lights Out” are balls to the wall rock, and reminiscent of early Marvelous 3 stuff. But then Butch goes tender again with songs like “Joan,” and whether or not it’s a true story about a lost loved one, the lyrics are powerful: “After all this time/You were waiting on the right/To stop at the place where they slowly misplaced your life.” And who else but Butch Walker can write a song called “Race Cars and Goth Rock”?

I could go on all day about Butch Walker, and by now everyone knows that he’s one of my favorite songwriters and performers. But while many recognize him as a producer (Bowling for Soup, Sevendust, Avril Lavigne), too many don’t know the whole story about Butch. And actually, that really doesn’t matter. Because while Letters may or may not put Walker on the larger scale map as an artist, there are plenty of us out there who know the truth -- that Butch Walker is the MAN.

~Mike Farley