The opening track of Brad Butcher’s second album, Jamestown, is ‘Simple Things’, in which he sings: ‘The simple things/We must embrace/And I’m on my way’. Inherent in this is the restlessness of someone who is searching – for experiences, for meaning. It’s someone who can appreciate the ‘simple things’ but then, as Butcher sings in the refrain, ‘the simple things lead me on my way’. The simple things are to be appreciated, but they are never enough: there is more to be found. The simple things are the catalyst for discovery.
It is this philosophy that infuses the album: that there is beauty and meaning in small moments, although a person can never stop trying to be better and do more. This is not a philosophy shared by everyone, yet it also proves that Butcher is prepared to take risks: these songs may not be for you, but they are true for him. You can either appreciate the honesty of what he’s doing, and the vulnerability that comes with that, or not.
Butcher is a Romantic, and the capital R is on purpose. Romanticism as a movement was concerned with imagination, emotion and freedom – Butcher’s songs each contain these elements, and the album as a whole is not a manifesto so much as an expression of a philosophy; perhaps, even, a wish. Many of Butcher’s songs sound as if he wants the world to be a kinder, gentler place – and that he takes responsibility for trying to make it that way. After listening to Jamestown, I’m convinced that he’s achieving it.
It is an album that can make the listener feel wistful, sad and even strangely nostalgic – like he’s nipping at the heels of a memory that can’t be his, because it belongs only to the listener. That’s the sign that Butcher is able to do what any great storyteller should: take a common experience and describe it in a way that resonates with the listener (or reader), even describe it in a way that is new but still recognisable.
It’s also an album that achieves something uncommon – at least, for me. It made me want to be a better person. It made me want to try harder and also remember to appreciate those simple things. It made me want to be still as I listened to it and also rush outside to find the birds and the trees.
The only thing that made me stop listening to Brad Butcher’s first album was the arrival of his second. I won’t mind if he takes a while to make a third, so that I can keep listening to them both, on repeat, looking at the moon and paying heed to the wind, wondering what adventures are out there and knowing that there are plenty also to be found within the lines of his songs.