Reckless Son – self-titled album
Matt Butler has chosen to take on a rather sizable task with his music. Recording under the moniker Reckless Son, the New York-based artist has toured prisons and jails, collected stories and written songs, and put together a one-man show based around those tales. Butler released an EP of those songs earlier this year. Now, the full-fledged album is out June 2. Reckless Son continues Butler’s mission to humanize those folks whose lives have come to be defined by their worst day.
Some of the songs on Reckless Son will be familiar from the EP (read Americana Highway’s review here: https://americanahighways.org/2023/01/26/review-matt-butler-reckless-son/), but this new nine-song collection fleshes out Butler’s vision of finding relatability between the subjects and listeners of his stories. The stand-out in this regard is “Been Gone So Long.” Backed by keys (courtesy of producer Doug Schadt) and haunting pedal steel from Dan Lead, the narrator, returning home after an incarceration that began at age 17 – “But in the eyes of the law, that was old enough to be tried as an adult.” But he finds obstacles to getting a job and building a life that we all might encounter from time to time – “Early in the morning, I go looking for work, I bum rides since I lost my car.” Problem is, these setbacks compound themselves in ways that few of us can comprehend – “Hitch a couple miles to my PO just to tell him no luck so far.” Each fraught decision is a mini life-and-death struggle, with little chance at long-term success – “I served my time and I paid my debt, but there’s always something more I owe.”
Butler also tells a story from another perspective in the title track – someone who raised one of these cast-offs, but struggles to reconcile that love with the now-grown-up son standing before him. The acoustic and steel-led ballad shows us a father who hasn’t given up, but is also realistic about his boy’s future – “I can’t hide you from your own hands/Or lift you from your knees/But I’m preparing myself to have to dig your grave.”
Along with “Been Gone So Long,” “St. Christopher’s Inn” shares the difficulty of returning home after tossing everything away – “Now folks look at me like I’m destined to lose/With my track marks and Jesus Christ tattoos.” But, like “The Wisdom of A Child” on its namesake EP, Reckless Son thankfully concludes with an optimistic note. “Just One,” with acoustic guitar, keys and Josh Lattanzi’s mandolin, is a low-key uplifter centered around the idea of small acts of kindness. Actions previously rooted in self-interest – “I always gave to the collection/Always hoping I’d get something back” – become something greater – “If I can help just one/And he can help just one…” – and those small actions, together, become much bigger.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Been Gone So Long” – Anyone who’s left his or her hometown for any significant amount of time – and for any reason – knows who unwelcoming that place can feel upon return. Plus – pedal steel.
Reckless Son was produced by Doug Schadt and Ben Rice, engineered by Schadt, mixed by Schadt and Mark Petaccia and mastered by Joe Lambert. All songs written by Matthew Butler Levinson. Additional musicians on the album include Schadt (percussion, keyboards, electric guitar, drums), Kurt Thum (organ), Josh Lattanzi (upright bass, electric bass, mandolin) and Dan Lead (pedal steel)
Stream Reckless Son on June 2
Check out tour dates here: https://mattbutlersongs.com/home#shows