Sign up for newsletter
From the Country Standard Time Archives

Bennett, Burch may look different, but make a musical romance

The Troubadour, West Hollywood, Cal. Aug. 19, 2002

By Dan MacIntosh

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – One would be hard-pressed to find two more different looking people than Jay Bennett and Edward Burch. While the disheveled Bennett always appears to have just rolled out of bed, Burch, with his balding head and horn-rimmed glasses, looks every bit like an on-call accountant.

But while there may be a grand canyon between them in the whole looks department, their love of melodic pop-rock-Americana is a musical romance forever joined at the hip.

Bennett admitted to being more than a little nervous about playing in LA. Maybe this is because he, Burch and their three supporting musicians, conjured up multiple ghosts of LA’s music past throughout the evening. When Bennett and Burch harmonized together– with Edward taking the high notes, while Bennett took the low ones – those hauntingly ethereal Byrds spirits seemed to inhabit the place. And on the electric piano-dominated “C.T.M.,” an aural vision of Jim Morrison appeared.

No matter the source, though, Bennett & Burch music is clearly more accessible than that of Bennett’s previous employer, Wilco. For the most part, Bennett steered clear of commenting on his old gig. At one point, however, he asked the audience if they’d seen any good movies lately, which could have been a subtle comment on the recent Wilco documentary, “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.” But if this was a jab at his old mates, he never elaborated on it further.

Songs from the group’s new “The Palace At 4 AM (Part 1)” album sound completely different in concert. Gone are all the psychedelic/orchestral elements that turned it into a “Sgt. Pepper” like experiment.

The small stage at The Troubadour simply did not leave room for the Wurlitzer, pedal steel, orchestral bells and all the other goodies that Bennett packed into the disc. Instead, with the help of Will Johnson’s widely gestured and powerful drumming, Bennett & Burch songs took on a stripped down, compact pop sound.

Much of the time, Burch took lead on the slower and quieter songs, with one example being the homey “Little White Cottage,” which is a leftover track from the “Mermaid Avenue” sessions of Woody Guthrie writings. Bennett, who played electric guitar along with Burch's acoustic, handled most of the louder stuff.

Bennett and Burch appeared to be enjoying their brief sabbatical away from the high pressures of major labels and big name bands. The satisfaction of letting their imaginations run wild was probably more than payment enough for their efforts. Unless, of course, Burch really is an accountant.