I am not generally a fan of people who decide to ‘do’ music after a career at something else. You only have to think of David Hasselhof or Steven Segal to see where I am coming from so I approached the debut album by Mark Butcher – ex-England batsman – with a lot of scepticism and barge-pole at the ready. And as the opening organ riill of ‘Put Some Soul In It’ came pouring out of the speakers and the funky drumbeat gave way to some seriously funky guitar and a fine white-soul voice I had pull over and check that I had loaded the right CD in the car stereo – so that is another assumption blown out of the water.

Mr Butcher has got a heck of a lot of natural talent for Bluesey and soulful music and the majority of the tracks on this album would be naturals for Radio 2. Considering that these are all self-penned songs – with the exception of Paul Weller’s ‘Has My Fire Really Gone Out’ – and you can be even more impressed as he uncovers an ability both with a pen and a guitar that very few people would have thought he possesses.

‘Leave If You Want To’ has a wicked little twisted guitar lick and a Little Feat / Delaney & Bonnie kind of groove to it. The organ – courtesy of Jonny Dyke – gives the whole number a real gospel feel but it is his vocal and guitar that really makes it all work. ‘The River’ has a dark and more moody feel to it, without the reliance on backing vocals and again you get his voice against some marvellous keyboards creating a powerful and intense mood.
He strays a little into Elton John territory with ‘Your Never Gone’ but then gets straight back into the white soul for ‘Nothing Is Stronger’
He has obviously listened to a lot of other guitarists in his time but he isn’t copying anyone and he uses bits of Mark Knopfler or Clapton or Charles Pitts to fine effect and the album is fresh and sounds completely original – absolutely not a slavish copy of anyone.
Production throughout is excellent and Matt Taylor has managed to capture a lot of the happy feelings that must have gone down in the studio as well as the punch and brio of Mark Butcher hisself.

I came to this album expecting far less than he delivers and I find myself almost feeling that I have to revisit the Steven Segal excrescence but maybe not – meantime I will just enjoy this.