Curt Obeda and the Butanes have operated at such a high standard for so long—going on a quarter-century—that it might be about time to name the best blues band category in their honor and have them retire from the competition. Not that retirement of any kind should be uttered in the same breath as the Butanes, who continue to chug along at full throttle. Last year the band issued a splendid new album, Memphisapolis, with singer and frequent co-conspirator Willie Walker. It sports a baker's dozen of sparkling new compositions by Obeda, who also produced, arranged, and mixed it. And the Butanes remain the favorite local collaborators for touring blues, soul and R&B greats, a veritable who's who of musical legends running from King Floyd to Percy Sledge. Then there was the late, great Earl King, who paid the Butanes the ultimate compliment of taking them home to New Orleans as his backup band. What do all these musicians hear in the Butanes? Obeda's rippling guitar and gnarly vocals lead the way, while the intrepid duo of bassist John Lindberg and drummer Robb Stupka provide a slithery, swampy groove. Add Virgil Nelson's keyboards and a visiting horn or three and you've got a gritty blues feast doused in the flavors of Chicago, Memphis, and points south. The band frequently turns up at the usual array of bars blaring the blues. But it has a special affinity for the Eagles #34 club in south Minneapolis, where the group has presided over a regular Wednesday night gig for more than two years.