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Paul Burch

East to West – 2006 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Paul Burch

After five critically acclaimed albums, Paul Burch was apparently suffering from mid-career doubt until a tour with Ralph Stanley, an encounter with legendary British DJ John Peel and a recording invitation from Mark Knopfler - Burch fans to a man - roused him from his creative ennui. As a result, this stands as one of the finest releases of Burch's already impressive run as the singer/songwriter once again teams with his marvelous backing band, the WPA Ballclub, while hosting guests Kelly Hogan, George Bradfute, Tim O'Brien, Jen Gunderman (as well as Stanley and Knopfler themselves) and plenty of others on a set that easily displays Burch's musical diversity.

With a vocal that approximates Jimmie Dale Gilmore's scuffed little brother, Burch drifts from traditional country ("Daddy Rhythm Guitar") to folky pop ("John Peel") to country calypso ("Conte Hondo") to twangy blues ("I Will Wait for You") to authentic bluegrass ("Little Glass of Wine," Burch's duet with Stanley on the master's own gem and the only non-original track). In lesser hands, this kind of stylistic bumper pool would be a scattered mess, but the strength of Burch's compositional fabric, where original songs consistently sound like undiscovered classics, is the unbreakable filament that effortlessly threads through "East to West."