First issued almost a year ago, Cam Butler's Self Portrait has undergone a significant rebirth thanks to the remarkable degree of clarity a re-mastering job has given its material. Building on the highly personalized sound Butler presented on his 2012 release Save My Soul, the new collection presents an even more intimate portrait of the guitarist's work.
The recording's primary selling-point is the haunting sound of Butler's guitar, especially when every subtle shading of it is brought microscopically close to the listener in the new mix. Every tremolo-sweetened strum is captured in all its soul-stirring glory, and though Butler does sometimes augment his guitar playing with drums and percussion (there's even on the 2014 version of “Space” what appears to be flute, though it's possible the sound is guitar-generated), it's nevertheless the electric guitar that's front and center. He plays the instrument with an exquisite sense of touch, such that every contact between his fingers and the guitar externalizes deep feeling.
A lilting drum shuffle lends the opening part of “Something's Wrong” a strong propulsion, and the combination of cymbals, castanets, and six-string twang also gives the material a decidedly Old West feel. The tune's second part, on the other hand, locates itself in ambient territory, with Butler spreading glassy textures across a shimmering backdrop. Elsewhere, the axe-man provides an emotionally expansive reading of Roland S Howard's “The Golden Age of Bloodshed” and slathers the downtempo head-nod of “Future World” with wah-wah treatments.
Though the enthusiasm with which Butler digs into the stabbing riffs in “Bad Chemicals [Mercury]” is worth the purchase price alone, his treatment of Ellington's “In A Sentimental Mood” is so sublime, one wishes he'd release an entire album of jazz standard covers. Taken at a deliciously slow pace, the performance sees Butler caressing each one of the piece's touching melodies with affection. At thirty-eight minutes, the album's judiciously timed in not being overlong yet still substantial enough in its content to provide a thoroughly satisfying account of Butler's artistry.