Paul Burch – Horse of a different color
When Paul Burch was growing up, the single record that made the most impact on him wasn’t what is thought of as roots music. It wasn’t an archival folk recording smelling of dust and shellac, though as a kid Burch had access to those and loved them. Of all things, the album that shaped his idea of long-playing greatness was the two-record soundtrack to the movie American Graffiti.
“Really,” says Burch, leaning forward in a rocking chair in the living room of his East Nashville apartment. His eyes widen as he talks, his hands measure the air. “An amazing record, just one great song after another. Every song has a totally different feel, and I didn’t know until I got older all those singles represented the sound of different cities — Chicago, Philadelphia. I just loved that one record could contain so many different colors.”
The connection between color and music comes up often at Burch’s place. Stuck to his refrigerator door is a color wheel. Linked to each shade is the color-coded name of a different artist, from Vic Chesnutt to Jesse McReynolds. That’s the musical and emotional spectrum he wants on his next album. “I like that Bob Dylan sounds different every record,” he says, rummaging around for Klondike Bars in a kitchen painted the royalest blue and the lemonest yellow you’ve ever seen.
His upstairs apartment, which includes a tiny studio (keyboard, mixing board, reel-to-reel) in a narrow room with a map of the United States, is painted in a scheme that would make Pedro Almodovar pale. The living room would be red if he hadn’t run out of paint. All that survives of the effort is a jagged crimson streak that parallels the ceiling. Guitars and mandolins appear in every corner, like ficus plants. These are the comforts of home.
Indeed, that may be the great charm of Burch’s music: that it seems as natural a part of daily life as color. The son of painters and writers, Paul Burch plays a joyous, lilting brand of hillbilly swing that’s rambunctious yet relaxed. In its own way, it’s as full of different shades and different regions as the American Graffiti soundtrack.
Wire To Wire, his latest CD for Checkered Past Records (both of Burch’s albums appeared in France on the Dixie Frog label several months in advance of their U.S. release), crackles with the resulting voltage from Texas swing and Bakersfield country and even Merseybeat pop all zapping into the same transformer. Recorded with his sterling band, the WPA Ballclub, the album even has some of the freewheeling, almost primordial looseness of another of Burch’s favorite records, Bob Dylan & The Band’s The Basement Tapes, which, like Wire To Wire, was recorded by a bunch of buddies cooped up in a small room. But it never sounds consciously retro. The album has the immediacy of old music when it was recorded live and new 50 years ago.++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
This is an excerpt of the full article which appeared in The Best of No Depression: Writing About American Music, which features 25 of the finest articles from the magazines back issues, and was published in 2005 by University of Texas Press to help celebrate the magazines 10th anniversary. Due to our agreement with UT Press we are unable to include this article in our online archive.
The Best of No Depression is the only place you can find these articles other than our back issues. Visit the No Depression store to buy your copy for only $10.
The 300-page volume includes co-editor Grant Aldens award-winning 2001 feature on Billy Joe Shaver, co-editor Peter Blackstocks 1998 Artist of the Decade piece on Alejandro Escovedo, senior editor Bill Friskics-Warrens 2002 cover story on Johnny Cash, contributing editor Paul Cantins deep exploration of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-era Wilco; and many other high points from our print heyday.
Table of contents for The Best of No Depression:
Preface, by Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock
Los Lobos, by Geoffrey Himes
Alejandro Escovedo, by Peter Blackstock
Jon Dee Graham, by Peter Blackstock
Billy Joe Shaver, by Grant Alden
Ray Wylie Hubbard, by John T. Davis
Flatlanders, by Don McLeese
Ray Price, by David Cantwell
Johnny Gimble, by Bill C. Malone
Johnny Cash, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Rosanne Cash, by Lloyd Sachs
Lucinda Williams, by Silas House
Buddy & Julie Miller, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Kasey Chambers, by Geoffrey Himes
Loretta Lynn, by Barry Mazor
Patty Loveless, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Kieran Kane, by Peter Cooper
Paul Burch, by Jim Ridley
Hazel Dickens, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Gillian Welch, by Grant Alden
Ryan Adams, by David Menconi
Jay Farrar, by Peter Blackstock
Jayhawks, by Erik Flannigan
Wilco, by Paul Cantin
Drive-By Truckers, by Grant Alden
Iron & Wine, by William Bowers