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Paul Burch: East To West


Paul Burch

Album: East To West

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On the East To West track "Daddy Rhythm Guitar," singer-songwriter Paul Burch sings about the virtues of a steady-handed picker with little hope of standing out in a world of Chet Atkins flash. It's an utterly sincere tribute to workaday musicianship that, however accidentally, proves why Burch does stand out. It breezes by pleasantly in a couple of minutes (thanks to guest rhythm guitarist Richard Bennett) but there's no mistaking its less-specific object of tribute—every unheralded clock-puncher who labors to keep food on the table. It's in Burch's voice, albeit not explicitly in his words.

Burch has a gift for understatement, both in his lyrics and his music. He's studied his honky-tonk heroes well, and knows how much a line like "we had it all in our hands / and we rolled around dice" can say without spelling anything out, particularly with a little tremolo tacked onto the end of it. He applies this skill throughout East To West, whether eulogizing the preeminent British tastemaker John Peel with details from Burch's brief meeting with him ("had every record ever sent him, even the ones he never played") or tastefully giving the spotlight to Ralph Stanley on "Little Glass Of Wine."

Burch innovates within tradition, and part of that innovation comes from stripping the tradition down. East To West abandons the steel guitars to get down to the roots of the form, whether he's rhapsodizing on "When I'm In Love," or using a few eerie details and the guitar of guest star Mark Knopfler to create an unsettling mood on "Before The Bells." There's little clutter here, and Burch's voice comes through all the clearer for it.