The Soundtrack To An Imaginary Soundtrack of Jimmie Rodger’s Life.
You can listen to this album on several different levels; and thoroughly enjoy it every which way, as it is the fabled Paul Burch’s latest album sung in a semi-traditional; but always reverential Country-Swing style and; most interestingly it’s an ‘imagined autobiography of The Singing Brakeman, Jimmie Rodgers life.’
As I know very little about Jimmie Rodgers; I will review it as the former; if you don’t mind.
The first song, Meridian; about the town in Mississippi where Rodgers was born, opens with some charming clarinet, before Burch saunters in with an even more charming, piano led song setting the scene for the story that will follow.
As you would expect every song charts a period or event in Jimmie’s life; and I particularly like the Honky-Tonk foot-stomper US Route 49 and the bewitching Hillbilly twang of Black Lady Blues; in the first half. The fiddle playing on that latter tune is worth the entrance fee alone.
That same fiddle nearly sets on fire during To Paris (With Regrets); a barnstorming piece of Gypsy-Jazz that also has some crazy guitar and a red hot accordion too; the song is well worthy of the music in the background too btw.
With Gunther Hotel Blues, which immediately follows, it’s back to Western Swing as Burch tells a raunchy and dark tale that shines a new light on Mr. Rodgers, for me.
It’s not all laughs and toe-tappin’ tunes here; there’s even a bit of a socio-political statement tucked away in the middle, with The Poor Don’t Vote. Although written by Burch in 2015/16 it truly capture the feeling of the times Rodgers lived and worked in.
As I understand it from the bio and also a friend who is a fan of Jimmie Rodgers; Rodgers fused Western Swing with the Blues and Folk giving rise to the argument that he was a forerunner for what would become known as Rock & Roll; and again Burch captures that spirit on Fast Fuse Blues and Back to the Honky Tonks; which is an absolute delight from start to finish; no matter how many times I hear it.
While there’s an awful lot here to enjoy; my two favourite tracks are the sad New Orleans infused, love song, The Girl I Sawed in Half and a similarly Jazz infused If I Could Only Catch My Breath which features Billy Bragg and the legendary Jon Langford, the latter of which is as good a song as I may have ever heard.
When the final track, the short and sweet, but still rambunctious Oh Didn’t He Ramble filters in you know that you are listening to; and have been listening to something really special indeed.
Released February 26th 2016