Following the disbanding of the final Butterfield Blues Band lineup, Paul Butterfield relocated to the artist colony that had developed in the Catskill Mountains around Bearsville and Woodstock, NY. He began hanging out with members of the Band, Van Morrison, Jesse Winchester, and an ever-growing roster of high profile musicians who had also relocated there in recent years.
Butterfield assembled a new band, which featured some of the cream of that crop of veteran musicians. The new group, christened Better Days, had an extraordinary frontline consisting of Butterfield on harp and vocals, former Jim Kweskin Jug Band founding member Geoff Muldaur on keyboards, guitar, and vocals, Ronnie Barron on piano and vocals, as well as legendary studio vet, Amos Garrett, on lead guitar. The rhythm section boasted former Buddy Miles Express and Taj Mahal bassist Billy Rich and former Holy Moses drummer, Christopher Parker, who would eventually work with a long list of legends including Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Steely Dan.
Better Days released two excellent studio albums on the Bearsville label and this concert features much of the material from their debut album, when the band was still relatively new and full of enthusiasm for playing together. Butterfield, Muldaur, and Barron were all strong lead vocalists and Garrett was probably the best guitarist to work with Butterfield since Michael Bloomfield. Sadly overlooked at the time, this group was just as intriguing as Butterfield's former band and the music they created was as good, if not better, than much of what directly proceeded it within Butterfield's catalogue.
"We're the only band around that's playing rooted American music," Better Days vocalist and former folkie Geoff Muldaur told an interviewer when this album was first released in 1973, and with perhaps just a handful of exceptions he was right. The band's mix of various styles of blues, from rural (Robert Johnson), to cosmopolitan (Percy Mayfield), along with hints of New Orleans R&B, boogie woogie, and early rock and country, was tremendously out of step with the pop trends of its time.
These days, of course, there are many bands doing more or less the same thing (although rarely as well), but the fact that these guys couldn't have cared less about appearing trendy is one of the reasons why Better Days sounds timeless. Another reason, of course, is world class musicianship; Muldaur, Paul Butterfield, and stupendously stylish guitarist Amos Garrett in particular come across as both relaxed and passionate. Despite their essentially formalistic approach to music making, they never sound academic or sterile. Better Days is one of the great lost albums of the '70s.
1. New Walkin' Blues (Johnson) - 4:54
2. Please Send Me Someone to Love (Mayfield) - 5:09
3. Broke My Baby's Heart (Barron) - 5:09
4. Done a Lot of Wrong Things (Charles) - 3:52
5. Baby Please Don't Go (Williams) - 3:28
6. Buried Alive in the Blues (Gravenites) - 3:44
7. Rule the Road (Von Schmidt) - 4:13
8. Nobody's Fault But Mine (Simone) - 3:37
9. Highway 28 (Hicks) - 3:10
*Ronnie Barron - Keyboards, Organ, Electric Piano, Vocals
*Gary Brocks - Trombone
*Sam Burtis - Trombone
*Paul Butterfield - Harmonica, Harp, Electric Piano, Producer, Vocals,
*Bobby Charles - Vocals
*Brother Gene Dinwiddie - Tenor Saxophone
*Peter Ecklund - Trumpet
*Amos Garrett - Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Howard Johnson - Horn, Baritone Sax
*Geoff Muldaur - Guitar, Piano, Slide, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
*Maria Muldaur - Fiddle, Vocals
*Chris Parker - Drums
*J.D. Parran - Tenor Saxophone
*Billy Rich - Bass
*David Sanborn - Alto Saxophone
*Stan Shafran - Trumpet
*Dennis Whitted - Drums, Vocals