Dark Roast – new banjo tune from Charles Butler

Banjo man Charles Butler, who grew up in New England but now resides in Nashville, has a new single out this week, a banjo instrumental inspired by his favorite coffee blend, Dark Roast.

Currently, Charles works as a member of Rebecca Frazier’s band, Hit & Run.

Dark Roast is a clever modern acoustic piece, with some interesting twists and turns, recorded with some of his Music City friends. Frazier plays guitar, with Dan Seymour on bass, Ilya Portnov on harmonica, and Justin Amaral on percussion.

Along with this new track, Butler also shared some details about his background, and the structure of this tune.

“I started playing the banjo as a teenager in Burlington, VT in the ’90s. At that time, there was a great player around town named Gordon Stone, with whom I studied. After high school, I studied with Tony Trischka while attending SUNY Purchase College. There I attained a degree in Music Composition. I now live in the Nashville area and have been here for quite a long time.

I love writing instrumental music, and consider it a collaboration between me and the banjo. Some of my pieces gestate for many years, but Dark Roast came very quickly. It was written two years ago in the month of December (a great month for drinking coffee), around the time that I acquired my home roaster and began enjoying freshly roasted coffee every morning. The ‘A’ part of the melody is something that the banjo wanted to do, so I just tried to stay out of the way, and it reminds me a bit of Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel. The ‘B’ section I wrote is, to me, tropical-sounding. Or maybe I just want it to be because I like the idea of drinking a great cup of coffee on the beach. The ‘C’ section seemed to write itself, and the whole thing came together in short order.

As with my 2022 full-length release, Duck’s Eye, the musicians here are all friends that I play with in other bands. Justin Amaral and Dan Seymour play with me in my experimental band, Easy Green. Rebecca Frazier is the leader of her own fantastic band that I’m fortunate to be a part of. I play with Ilya Portnov in the Noelle Goodin Band. They are all great at what they do and care about the music a lot.

Dark Roast was recorded in my living room in Donelson, Tennessee, and was mastered by Ron Rice, Tony’s brother. Ron is incredibly kind and knowledgeable.”

Have a listen…

Dark Roast is available now from popular download and streaming services online, and directly from the artist on bandcamp, where you will find all his music.

New Yorkers can catch Charles this weekend at Carnegie Hall on February 18, where he’ll be playing banjo with the Nashville Symphony Chorus. They will be performing The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass by Carol Barnett, a lovely piece of music in a form that great composers have followed for centuries.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.