Ed Burleson – You just can’t live in Texas if you don’t have a lot of soul
Ed Burleson still swings a hammer and digs ditches to make a living by day. By night, the soft-spoken, teddy-bear-faced, sixth-generation Texan makes pure, traditional country music. And he’s going to keep doing it his way.
“Money isn’t important enough to change what I do,” he said during a break from his construction job, a day before he fronted an all-star band at the storied Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas. “I’d rather be out here working and keep the music the way I want it, and for it to always be fun — to never let it become work.”
The Oct. 29 show for an over-capacity crowd of 400 at Sons of Hermann was the release party for Burleson’s My Perfect World, a collection of love-gone-wrong songs with an authentic nasal twang. His band for the night — attracted by Burleson’s determination to “keep it real, keep it traditional” — included an impressive lineup of musicians. Among them were roots-rock hero Bill Kirchen on electric guitar; fiddlers Alvin Crow (leader of the Pleasant Valley Boys) and Bobby Flores (of Ray Price’s Cherokee Cowboys); pianist Ronnie Huckaby (of George Strait’s Ace in the Hole Band); and drummer Mike Buck (Fabulous Thunderbirds, LeRoi Brothers).
Leading the way on guitar was none other than Doug Sahm, in one of his final appearances onstage before his death less than a month later. (Burleson’s album is the first release for California-based Tornado Records, which was founded in part by Sahm.)
Burleson, 30, is descended from Texas independence Battle of San Jacinto hero Gen. Edward Burleson. He went to college on a rodeo scholarship (bareback, saddle bronc) before trading a halter for a beat-up guitar. His songs reflect his respect for the traditional songcraft of such classic country artists as Buck Owens, Willie Nelson, Guy Clark and Billy Joe Shaver.
Two tunes on My Perfect World are about Burleson’s love of his home state. “Wide Open Spaces” — not to be confused with the Dixie Chicks hit of the same name — and “Going Home To Texas” leave no doubt about Burleson’s appreciation of a time and place rapidly fading into urban sprawl. The other eight songs are about heartbreak: “That’s honky-tonk music,” Burleson put it simply.
He’s a solid writer, with enough sense to also include two Jim Lauderdale songs (“It All Started And Ended With You” and “Might Seem Like A Loser”) and one by each of his producers (Sahm’s “Clinging To You” and Clay Blaker’s “Going Home To Texas”). But the best cuts may be Burleson’s own, including the title track (co-written with Roy Ashley), “Wide Open Spaces”, “Staring Out The Window” and “No Closing Time” — each expressing universal angst amid the existential confines of a dark bar with a good jukebox and a small, dusty dance floor.