Tennessee's own Rayland Baxter is back with his fourth studio album If I Were a Butterfly. The album is filled with multiple guests appearances, including some from members of the Cage the Elephant, the Alabama Shakes, Shakey Graves, Lennon Stella, and his late father, the music legend Bucky Baxter. Bucky Baxter passed away in 2020, and was a longtime member of Bob Dylan's band, but he had an opportunity to play pedal steel on the album.
The album kicks off with the title track, a psychedelically trippy romp that has the listener in a fever dream throughout. This theme shifts on the indie rock driven "Rubberband Man". We again pivot with the slower-paced "Tadpole", a track beaming with emotion. Throughout the album there are themes of loss, which can be attributed to the loss of Baxter's father. When discussing the editing process of the album, Baxter brought it back to his father when he stated "It really wore me out to spend all that time alone at the studio, editing the hell out of this record; my heart definitely suffered...But I also had the guidance of my dad, who was in my dreams all the time—if I was moving too fast, I’d hear him telling me to slow down.”
In addition to the loss of his father, Baxter experienced the loss of two good friends that impacted him on making the record. Through all the loss, Baxter was able to keep his focus on the work. About the album, Baxter said “It’s been a weird few years, but I think the big picture is for us to just exist and find love and be loved, and try to see that all the daily bullshit is simply bugs on the windshield...I hope that this album makes people feel the way I do whenever I listen to my favorite records, and that it gives them a platform to dream on.” You can certainly feel the moments of loss on the album, but you also get a sense of joy from the time you had with someone and the memories shared together. If I Were a Butterfly is an interesting varied album with a lot for listeners to dissect and that's definitely not a bad thing. It is some of Baxter's most intense work to date and it's well worth taking the time to spin it.
Rating - 4/5