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Billy Bratcher

In the Lobby – 2012 (Cow Island)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Billy Bratcher

Billy Bratcher is a modern musician with a penchant for the past. A long-time member of Vermont's Starline Rhythm Boys, he ventures back in time for "In the Lobby," his first solo album and a paean to his day job working in the hospitality industry as both a bellman and entertainer. It's the latter that inspires the songs contained herein, 18 archival melodies, which beckon back to the '20s, '30s and '40s, when ragtime ruled and swing was king.

Indeed, judging by the evidence offered herein, Bratcher is a student of archival styles. Tapping into tunes by Irving Berlin (My Walking Stick), Ted Snyder (Who's Sorry Now), Jimmie Rogers (TB Blues) and a host of other lesser known yet equally important iconoclasts, he recreates the music of an innocent era when humour and heartbreak were offered in equal measure.

Not surprisingly then, influences run rampant, from the throaty rumble of Leon Redbone applied to Big Time Woman and the smooth Bing Crosby-like croon of Why to the sass and spark of Sweet Sue, Just You, the jazzy jive of Champagne Charlie and the host of historical references that informs literally everything else. It's a surprisingly diverse array of genres, but Bratcher proves he's clearly up for the task.

Ultimately, "In The Lobby" comes across as something of a hoot, a curiosity and a curio that entertains as intended. Whether or not that serves to sustain Bratcher in the long run remains to be seen, but for the time being, he's clearly right where he belongs.