Above all, the seeming ease with which Burch delivers these epistles of familial...
Chris Jones 2002
Regular readers (hello Mabel) will be well aware of our deep and abiding love for Mr Burch and the WPA Ball Club. His other 2001 release Blue Notes is a big contender for our album of the year with its gorgeously old-time feel and this new work is sure to maintain the sometime Lambchop member's reputation as keeper of country's trad keys. Based on friend Tony Earley's book Jim The Boy; Burch was asked to provide a musical backdrop to a reading at the Southern Festival Of Books and, instead, produced a body of work which would allow the characters to "speak to us as they would to their souls". Each of the songs paint a different aspect of this tale of North Carolina mountain folk and their brushes with modern society and, in doing this, Paul Burch has produced a wonderfully evocative document which stands on its own.
The key to Burch's success is the use of sparse instrumentation and his own down-home vocals which sound drawn from some temporal current drifting in the ether from the first half of the last century. Backed by upright bass, minimal percussion and hillbilly guitar and banjo, these songs are, in turn, joyous ("Going To The Carnival"), humorous ("Harvey Hartsell's Farm") and deeply touching ("Mama Shoo'd The Blackbirds"), while the threat and wonder of modern progress are denoted by gritty urban blues ("Country Boys In A City Alley" ) and greasy rockabilly ("Electricity"). Above all, the seeming ease with which Burch delivers these epistles of familial tradition and loss gives them a poignancy that truly conveys a deep-rooted sense of an ancient continuity linked to the land where Jim grows. The two songs which bookend the album - "Up On The Mountain" and "Last Of My Kind" - highlight the sense of what Burch himself calls: "missingness and...the realization of being the last of their kind." This dignified and measured document does that with overwhelming conviction.