303 SW 12th Avenue Portland, OR, 97204
Saturday, August 6, 2022
Crystal Hotel - Al's Den
$12 in advance, $12 day of show
21 and over
Limited Seating, first come first serve. Expect standing room.
7 p.m.$12 in advance, $12 day of show21 and over
Words can hurt. They pierce and puncture when hurled and thrown. They slash and gash-the cause of last night's mascara-dyed tears. They can heal. They cure a heart's forlorn ache. They mend old fences and rectify past undoings. Words, they warm, spark and set ablaze.
Country music's Kaitlin Butts' What Else Can She Do finds the emerging songwriter delivering a collection of delicate, strong, and gallant characters and transformative storytellers. What Else Can She Do is a visceral display of just how raw and mighty words and actions can be-and how sometimes, knowing when to walk away can be just as compelling.
"These songs are all stories from different women facing the question: What else can she do," says Butts. "I don't think that life is all that pretty sometimes and it comes with pain and pushing through hard times, or being stagnant, going through the motions, and not knowing what to do, or just being flat-out angry with whatever life has put on your plate."
Following up her delightful debut Same Hell, Different Devil and a diverse run of singles-the cosmic dancer "Marfa Lights," haunting murder ballad "White River," and the sweet tranquility of "How Lucky Am I,"-What Else Can She Do finds the Oklahoma songwriter in full blossom. Behind her flowing locks of auburn hair, Oklahoma twang, and a wry grin, grows a demanding voice and equally devastating storyteller.
The cast of characters she introduces this time around offers hope in midst of crumbling worlds. Ambition and beauty grow in defiance of yesterday's peril and pitfalls. Despite their current strife, the women of What Else Can She Do will persevere and endure. Butts reminds us that even when you're stuck between a rock and hard place, you either remain stuck in that rut and perish or you can be the hero of your own story. More often than not, Butts' bruised-but-not-broken ensemble does just that. They're on the cusp of rebirth and bliss.
"There's definitely this tension and them being at their lowest point," says Butts of What Else Can She Do's protagonists.
All too often in Western society and culture, we cast women as damsels in distress waiting for a hero to save them from misery. They're characterized as vindictive heartbreakers out on the prowl. One-dimensional and flat. But much like Country music's godmothers-Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton-What Else Can She Do flips the paradigm. Rooted in reality and shaped by everyday occurrences, Butts' brand of storytelling and character development proves strong women have bad days and are as multi-faceted as their real-life counterparts. They too contain multitudes.
Like many a songwriter, Butts can easily play the part of the observant daydreaming wallflower, but perhaps her strongest gift is being an earnest listener. She plucks lines and the emotional weight they carry and delivers them through a lens of attentive purity.
"I've been watching the world around me, seeing what friends and family go through. Writing about those things helps me feel more at peace," says Butts. "It's important to tell these stories because when someone's going through that exact thing, they'll know they're not alone."
Butts jokingly says she's "a mini therapist" for some of her friends and family, noting that "sometimes all we want to be, is seen."
A definite tone-setter for the album, "blood," a quaking plea and declaration written with veteran songwriter Angeleena Presley, Butts demands accountability from kin and kith all the same. Armed with a boisterous, gloomy bassline, Butts calls out gaslighting and the bevy of excuses often used to take shots and parting blows-all in the name of unconditional family ties as justification.
"It's so hard to sever ties and write someone off. It's so much harder if they're your family," says Butts. "There's so much toxicity with people trying to make you feel guilty for wanting to cut difficult people out of your lives as well. I just think that's not how it should work. I just don't think that's how the world should work, but unfortunately, a lot of people stick around and stay even though they feel so much pain."
The sharp and looming "It Won't Always Be This Way" is Butts at her finest. She melds a rush of raw, instinctive, and combustible emotions on the fiery opener. Inspired by her courageous mother, Butts blends hearty fortitude with delicate vulnerability while in the wake of despair and moving forward. A surefire anthem, "It Won't Always Be This Way" illustrates how one can be gilded by their trials, but walk away uncalloused.
"We were wanting so badly to see the light at the end of the tunnel," says Butts. "For so long, we didn't. It's been so inspirational to see her go from literally losing everything, having everything she'd worked for stripped away, to having to rebuild a life that's all her own."
On songs like the stirring "Bored If I Don't," Butts delivers a bonafide sequel to fan-favorite "Wild Rose." Much like Mary Chapin Carpenter's anthemic "He Thinks He'll Keep Her" or Lori McKenna's melancholic "The Bird & The Rifle," Butts taps into the daydreaming housewife disenchanted by suburban life proving not every fairy tale is happily ever after.
In similar fashion, "What Else Can She Do" finds a down-on-her-luck waitress broke down by the doldrums of mediocrity. Like a one-act play revolving around a cafe on the corner, Butts' "Small Town Pretty" abandons her big-city dreams while waltzing from table to table filling empty coffee cups and doling out breakfast plates of sizzling bacon and eggs over easy as the pedal steel gently warbles ambient whirls.
"So many people are just trying to get through their day jobs so they can go home and go to sleep, just to wake up and do it all over again," says Butts. "I think that we're all her. We've all been her at some point in our lives where we feel like we're stuck in the same day-to-day monotony."
On the slow swaying "Jackson," filled with rich hints and winks at the song made famous by Johnny and June, Butts delivers pure country gold with her rosy vocals and pastel-hued pedal steel.
Inspired by a line said by her grandmother on a family road trip-one that passed through Jackson, Alabama and on Johnny Cash's birthday no less-Butts took the line as a sign and quickly transformed it into a golden-rayed country ballad.
"I don't think that women are strangers to being in love with difficult men," adds Butts. Channeling the country ballads of the ‘70s golden age, Butts' "Jackson" proves that love and diamonds are sometimes just not enough on this soft gleaming waltzer.
"She's Using," a gripping forewarning codeine dream, Butts offers grace and mercy in lieu of condescension and cold judgment while the haunting cover of "In The Pines" finds Butts embracing the cosmic drift and electrifying Southern gothic piercer.
Throughout-whether she's morphed into the daydreaming Wild Rose, an unlucky waitress, the strong-willed woman reigning in a hard-living man, or a vigilant and admirable mother-Butts' diligence as a storyteller remains true. What Else Can She Do finds the Oklahoma native demanding to be seen and heard-as an artist, storyteller, and woman.
"I see myself in all of these women in these stories," declares Butts. "I see these women in my friends and family all around me going through divorce, abuse, infidelity, financial instability, addiction, generational trauma, family issues, and life-altering, tough times but somehow, are still resilient and come out on the other side okay."
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