Fool For Love

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Paul Burch

Album: Fool For Love
Label: Bloodshot
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Dolorean

Album: Not Exotic
Label: Yep Roc

Paul Burch plays drums and vibraphone for Lambchop and leads his own richly traditionalist country band, The WPA Ballclub; for both acts, he strives to re-create the pitch and tone of old radio broadcasts. Fool For Love, Burch's latest solo album, surveys the range of romantic emotion, from desperation to giddiness to quiet contentment, and though his smooth twang and heavy reverb give his songs the surface texture of late-'40s recordings, the record as a whole isn't as hidebound as it seems. The galloping guitar and moaning steel of "Lovesick Blues Boy" sounds dulled and muted, distancing the feeling of heartbreak in a way uncommon to the period the song evokes. Most of Fool For Love is softer and dreamier than its old-timey origins would indicate, and Burch similarly smears together honky-tonk and big-band pop, taking classic melodic structures and a general sense of reserve from both, while blending the two genres' instrumentation. As formally experimental as Burch can be, his essential allegiance to the past may give his work too much sense of remove, but his methods are alluring on "Call My Name" and "My Last Match," where the echo and blur is more like the memory of a touch than the touch itself. In the same vein, Not Exotic, the debut of Portland space-folk band Dolorean, aims for a custom blend of Nick Drake and Neil Young, with a little of the alt-country preoccupation with hardscrabble rural life. When bandleader Al James sings about sin and St. Louis prisons, Dolorean's fogbound sound seems hopelessly vague and unfelt, but the more universal ache of weepy ballads like "Jenny Place Your Bets" and "Sleeperhold" has real pull. Mostly, Not Exotic echoes Burch in its fixation on an unattainable elegance, which the musicians seek to reproduce through a hazy blur of pretty chimes. When the plain acoustic drone of Dolorean's "The Light Behind My Head" breaks for its chorus of "I still think it's love," backed by distant, tinkling piano, the beauty of the moment overcomes impossible ambitions.