With some seriously dreaded hair, a beat-up, old guitar and lyrical cries for fair trade, John Butler might look like some guy who jams for spare change in downtown Portland. But he's actually a California native, transplanted to Australia where he's become more popular than his position on American charts would denote.

He's “Down Under's answer to Dave Matthews Band,” said Rolling Stone at his first American release, Sunrise Over Sea , and his second offering to the Land of the Free is bound to make some waves in that amber grain.

What started out as a totally earthy, free-form jam project with worldly instrumentation, the John Butler Trio has evolved into producing more melodic offerings with increased, and welcome, structure. Still present is a mix of reggae and funk rhythms accented by a range of barnyard sounds courtesy of selectively placed banjo picking, hard plucked steel and slide guitars as well as world beats from congas and djembes.

Butler takes on political issues as well, indicting the U.S. government for its failures during Hurricane Katrina in the funk rock jam “Gov't Did Nothing.” But the standout trait is Butler's guitar virtuosity, most vibrantly displayed during the quick-stepped dance, “Funky Tonight” and on the wah-accented guitar solo of “Daniella.” Organic and tasty stuff.

Grade: A