Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
This is really, really f-in’ good. Wow! If a recording gets a wow from me. That is equivalent to a five out of five stars. I hear a good bit of Creedence Clearwater Revival in the song presentation and cadence of the vocals. Solid songwriting and singing are present throughout Northern Trails. Shawn’s voice is great. Somewhere on the higher end of mid range. The sweet spot. It has plenty of grunge attitude and feeling as well. If Kurt Cobain were alive today, I could envision him releasing an album similar to this.
Shawn Butzin is a singer-songwriter, guitarist, and drummer based out of Bay City, MI (by way of Denver, CO). He released his debut solo album, Northern Trails, which also features former Verve Pipe member, Andy Reed. I don’t know if Shawn is a fan of the 70s band Big Star, but his music certainly takes me there on some of the tracks. Shawn has a very good understanding of how to construct a song. He constructed ten of them on this album that are well built and sturdy and will be standing for a long time.
There are a few songs on here that have anthem type quality. Among those, Leaving Colorado (Track 3) is probably the leader of that contingent. The vocals are chilling and beautiful. This is a brilliantly written autobiographical song about, you guessed it, leaving Colorado. Not just leaving Colorado, but going back home to Michigan. This song gives the listener real insight into the conflicting feelings Shawn is experiencing about leaving one home for another. The emotion comes through like water streaming through a fishing net.
This decision was clearly a bittersweet one for Shawn, because the follow up song after Leaving Colorado is Hometown Blues (Track 4). Obviously, returning home to Michigan was the right decision at that moment. Clearly, this conundrum was not without some soul searching and restlessness. Also, some self doubt if the right decision was made. After listening to this song, I can say Shawn made the right decision. A truly sad and lovely number that really captures the essence of homesickness.
This guy, Shawn Butzin, came out of nowhere. If he hadn’t send me his music, I probably never would have heard it. I am so grateful Shawn took the time to let me review his music. He may have come out of obscurity, but based on the quality of Northern Trails, he won’t stay there.