Queensland singer-songwriter Brad Butcher has, deservedly, been the recipient of a Golden Guitar for New Talent of the Year (even if it was for his third album) and Country Song of the Year at the Queensland Music Awards. He has a growing fan base, within the industry and amongst music lovers. He’s also been regularly reviewed on this website because from his first, self-titled album it was clear that he is an outstanding talent. Since that album he’s released Jamestown and From the Bottom of a Well, both complete works, just as the first one was – that is, they are deeply satisfying on lyrical and musical levels, and they are story collections that leave you feeling as though you’ve been told things, learnt things, experienced emotions and taken paths you didn’t otherwise know were there.
It is no surprise, therefore, that with his fourth album, Travelling Salesman, Butcher has again produced a complete work. But that doesn’t mean that his albums are simply versions of each other. On each Butcher looks out and within to find what is right for that work at that time. On each he is prepared to draw on his personal experiences and be vulnerable; on each he is also able to look at the world around him and tell stories that are of value about it.
Travelling Salesman is the work of an artist who now has perspective on the past and on the path he’s been on; as a working artist he now believes himself akin to a ‘travelling salesman’ but there is only pragmatism in the assessment. This is a travelling salesman who likes the travel, even if he’s had to get used to the selling. He also now has a sense of where he fits into the world, and what he can bring to others. Along the way he has not lost the sense of wonder, or willingness to be honest and emotional, that have been present since his first album. If anything, he’s become tighter as a storyteller – in that he has sharpened his focus – and nowhere is this more evident than on the fourth track, ‘Easy Street’.
This is a multi-generational family story in one song; it acknowledges that struggle can strengthen ties, that love is a virtue and that there is room for resentment and forgiveness within each clan. Even though it’s the fourth track, much radiates from it: the man of ‘I’m All In’ is the product of that family in ‘Easy Street’, as is the one whose beliefs shape ‘Suburban Myth’. Within that family that same man has learned to look beyond himself so he can tell the stories of others, as in ‘Freshwater Lady’. It all suggests that over the past four albums Butcher has developed his understanding of what it means to take on the responsibility of being a storyteller. On earlier albums he might have been telling stories for himself – even though they’ve always resonated with many others – but now he’s firmly looking outwards. Or, rather, radiating outwards. He knows who he is and it is from that place of surety that he steps into the world.
Partly this is, no doubt, because he’s become that travelling salesman. He is going around the country, meeting people, playing to strangers, and all the while using his talent and skills to synthesise what he sees and learns. The result is this wonderful album, the fourth in an outstanding line, but the first, perhaps, of a new direction for Butcher, not only the travelling salesman but the roving storyteller who embraces his role and understands its importance to the people who come to listen to his tales.
Travelling Salesman is out now.
Watch the video for ‘Nature’s Course’, the first track on Travelling Salesman, below: