Album Review: Paul Burch — Fevers
After last year’s stellar collaboration with The Waco Brothers, The Great Chicago Fire, singer-songwriter Paul Burch returns with Fevers, his debut on fledgling label Plowboy Records and his first solo release since 2011’s Buddy Holly tribute, Words of Love.
Co-produced with multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin one of the original members of Burch’s WPA Ballclub band, Fevers crackles with the spontaneous energy of a live show. It’s polished (how couldn’t it be, with musicians like Kaplin, Chris Scruggs, and Dennis Crouch) but not perfect: on the barn-burning rockabilly song “Couldn’t Get a Witness,” we hear someone in the studio howling, then what sounds like Burch stifling a laugh on the outro.
Fevers showcases Burch’s versatility as a songwriter and performer more than any of his releases to date, as he effortlessly goes from Cajun country on “Sac Au Lait” to the Spanish-tinged “Sagrada,” while his moody take on traditional fiddle tune “Cluck Ol’ Hen,” which features some fine mandolin picking — in addition to thumping percussion that infuses the song with an ominous tone — serves as a quick trip through Appalachia. “Give it Away” captures the sound of early rock ‘n’ roll; it’s nearly impossible to hear it and not boogie along. His finest moment comes with the honky tonk heartbreaker “Straight Tears, No Chaser,” a slice of Bakersfield heaven that sounds as though it could be a lost Buck Owens tune – Burch’s inflections make him sound remarkably like a young Owens as he sings the chorus: “Straight tears, no chaser / When it’s lonesome time / Top it off with memories / Proof 99 / And if I can’t make this old heart mend, I’m gonna cry, cry again / Straight tears, no chaser / Let the heartache begin.”
But Owens isn’t the only country singer Burch channels. He serves up a fantastic, slow-burning version of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s 1951 single “Ocean of Tears,” with duet partner Kelly Hogan — who’s at her torchiest here — filling the role of Kay Starr, and album closer “I’m Going to Memphis” could make Johnny Cash tap his toes.
In a solid year for country music releases, Burch raises the bar a notch higher. Deciding on the “Best of 2013″ just got a bit more difficult.
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