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Waco Bros. and Paul Burch

Great Chicago Fire – 2012 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

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CDs by Waco Bros. and Paul Burch

The Waco Brothers and Paul Burch teamed up for an album that not only Mrs. O'Leary, but her cow Elsie would most likely enjoy. The Wacos, one of Chicago's better but still underrated rock acts, burn a lot of energy on the rollicking opening title track with backing vocals by Tawney Newsome and Bethany Thomas. But it's a steady dose of rockabilly-fuelled tunes that makes the album come to life, particularly on the tight, perky Give In as Burch accents the song perfectly.

Sounding at times like a cross of Marah and The Jayhawks, the tandem slow things down somewhat for the punchy, swinging Wrong Side Of Love that wouldn't fall far from a tune Drive-By Truckers might take a stab at. But the poppy flavor which Burch exudes makes Cannonball come off like something Ricky Nelson or The Everly Brothers would applaud - simple, sweet and a hair over two and a half minutes. The only clunker might be how breezy and formulaic Monterey sounds, resembling a bad Jimmy Buffett or Bellamy Brothers effort.

A bit of that old school rockabilly style comes to life on the toe-tapping barn burner Transfusion Blues with the title sung in a Jimmie Rodgers-like yodel. And while the Wacos are known mainly for their work with Jon Langford, one hopes that this collaborative album is just the first in what appears to be a very fruitful musical friendship judging by the roots-y, earnest On The Sky. However, the rendition they do on Dylan's Hard Rain's Gonna Fall is an acquired taste. Think the icon influenced by the Yardbirds' I'm A Man, and things become relatively clearer. Nonetheless, Waco Brothers and Paul Burch are a very solid combination.