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Paul Burch | Last of my Kind (Spit and Polish)
On his fourth solo album, Lambchop vibes man and country purist Burch has written a narrative cycle suggested and inspired by a reading of his next door neighbour's Southern rites-of-passage novel Jim The Boy. Considering the current penchant for all things Bluegrass since the release of the 'O Brother' film (the Coens' worst - by a long shot) he's made a wise move. Though always a country classicist at heart, Burch's last album saw him moving more in the direction of classic pre-WWII crooners and 'Nashville Skyline'-era Dylan. On 'LOMYK' he returns to pure Bluegrass, unsullied by anything so modern or faddish as electrical instruments, his voice a high, keening facsimile of Jimmie Rodgers' blue yodel, urbane and jazzy yet retaining an earthy charm. The story concerns a young man's descent from the mountain and his awakening in the city. The mountain is of course a symbol of the past, of tradition and family ties while Aliceville, the town, is an entry into the modern world, its trials and gifts. In a series of short, spare songs Burch chronicles the young Jim's adventures and regrets from his wild glee at the arrival of electricity in Aliceville to the sad realisation by the end that he is, indeed, the last of his kind. Unfortunately the first half of the album is just too light to properly handle the themes, too laid back to be genuinely engrossing. Throwaways such as the repetitive Going To The Carnival and Livin' Up To The Man You See In Me are nice background wallpaper but fail to really capture the feel of the material. It's only on the last third of the record that things really ignite with the jazzy shuffle of Polio, a stark narrative vignette that traces the devastating effects of the disease on a small community and on the sinister warnings of the eponymous psychotic bootlegger of Amos's Blues. It's not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with this album, it's just such a disappointment because it promised so much more and, in Polio, delivers a track that's so good it leaves the rest of the album wanting.

Stav Sherez
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002

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