Button [Featuring Members of Doobie Brothers + Chicago] – Button (2018)

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Button, a new group founded by touring members from the Doobie Brothers and Chicago, is defined by musicality, chemistry and experience. That’s no surprise when you consider the resumes of these three music-industry veterans.

Besides the Doobie Brothers, John Cowan has also served as lead vocalist and bassist for the New Grass Revival and led his own group. Keith Howland has been with Chicago since 1995, and earlier showcased his stellar guitar skills with Rick Springfield. Ed Toth works with Cowan in the Doobie Brothers, and has played drums with Vertical Horizon, as well.

Cowan was also instrumental in creating the Newgrass genre, which was a more experimental and modern version of bluegrass and spawned artists like Leftover Salmon and Yonder Mountain String band. He originally joined the Doobie Brothers in 1993, while Toth has been on board since 2005.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Ed Toth joins Preston Frazier to discuss the origins of Button, as well as his time working with the Doobie Brothers and Vertical Horizon.]

Together, they create an eclectic mix of new music with this new band: Their self-titled album, produced by Button and recorded in Nashville, features unique, upbeat, feel-good music. Button found inspiration for this project through shared ideas about the type of music they wanted to make. Everything clearly happened organically: From the melodies to the lyrics, Button seems to have come together quickly and easily, serving as a showcase for the trio’s similarities, friendship and ability to be in-sync with one another.

Button blends together sounds reminiscent of 1960s and ’70s music, from progressive to classic rock, but with a contemporary spin that’s appealing to all ages. Like Buttons itself, the album’s song titles can be quirky and distinctive. Some of the standout tracks include “3 Minute Egg,” “Donkey Farm” and “Tears of God.”

“3 Minute Egg” is one of the songs that harkens back to the ’60s, specifically the psychedelic era, but with musical moments that also recall the Doobie Brothers and Rush. The melody is buoyant, yet full of rich, heavy drums and bass, and a jazzy feel featuring some distortion. The song hooks you right away with a lot of energy, and a great guitar solo.

On the other end of the spectrum is “Donkey Farm.” The song itself is a bit of mystery until you begin to listen to its lyrics: This is the song where Button takes a political stand, pushing back against the establishment. It’s a bit darker and heavier, with electric guitar and melancholy chords. Featuring a chorus of voices, “Donkey Farm” certainly sounds like a classic-rock protest song.

Things continue in a dark vein with “Tears of God,” but here Button takes a cathartic approach to sharing their feelings. A slower, more contemplative song, “Tears of God” displays the guitar and the organ beautifully. John Cowan’s voice is deep and raspy, and a perfect compliment to the melody and tone of the song. It’s probably the best and most individually different song on the album. As with so much here, “Tears of God” comes together cohesively, like the friendship and artistry of Button itself.

Kristina Mondo

Kristina Mondo

Kristina Mondo is New Jersey native, freelance writer, blogger and music enthusiast and a New Jersey Press Association Award winner. See more of her work at Off the Record: https://tunestoursandmore.wordpress.com/. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Kristina Mondo
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