CHARLIE BURTON & THE TEXAS TWELVE STEPPERS
Lazy S.O.B. Recordings SOB 003
(44m 16s) [US]
Charlie Burton, you say? Never heard of him! Well, dear reader, it will doubtless surprise you to know that you are about to read a review of Burtons sixth, so you have some catching up to do if this is your first encounter with the man.
Rustic Fixer-Upper is his first album for David Sangers enterprising little Austin-based Lazy S.O.B. label, and if it isnt going to break sales records, itll certainly bring Charlie to a bigger audience than any of his previous five, most of which barely got out of the midwest of America.
Like his fellow "adopted Texan" Cornell Hurd, Lincoln, Nebraska-born Burton is technically not the greatest singer in the world, but like Cornell he has felling and a way with words that most Nashville-based songwriters would give up a cut on a Garth Brooks album for.
Consider the tonking tale of Im The Guy Who Let Miss Universe Slip Through His Fingers where he couples "To say that she was purty was a mild understatement, her pictures in the dictionary where it defines what great meant." Or the moody, swamp-bluesy On More Than One Occasion with Burton attempting to woo a dissatisfied-with-her-lot lady via lines like "On more than one occasion, Ive seen him treat you like a non-caucasian"!
Perhaps more Don Bowman than Harlan Howard for sure, but funny, intelligent writing nonetheless, and this album is full of it...
...Its not the only thing Rustic-Fixer Upper is full of either. The album fair brims with instant danceability, and whether the Texas Twelve Steppers are offering brisk, on-the-fours shuffles such as Shes Out Of My Hair (But Not Out Of My Mind) or the cautionary rocker Thin Ice-Deep Water the beat just wont quit when Charlie and Co. are on.
Even the slower grooves are imbued with a quality that renders standing still impossible. And if you really dont want to dance, just sit back and marvel at the brilliance of Burtons song constructionthis is a man who can rhyme "Questionmark, ampersand, comma" with "Ooh, yo Mama!" in The Things I Wished Id Said and make it sound like the most natural coupling since "Moon" and "June."
Your reviewers favourite bit of Butonese comes in the menacing tale of the Rogue Cop when, after listing the bent bobbys many character flaws, Charlie muses ruefully "...and to think he graduated at (or near) the top!" Only Texas songwriting gives you subtext within the lyrical mainframe and only in Texas could it be that funny.
Co-opting Vic Gerard from the Derailers as one of the Texas Twelve Steppers was a masterstroke, as Gerards walking bassline both steadies the rockier tracks and drives the honky-tonk material to even greater heights of brilliance.
Mark Korpi proves to be an unflashy lead guitarist who plays only whats necessary and makes his point well when he does, and for David Sanger, well, if Ray Bensonll have him drumming for Asleep At The Wheel hes good enough to land a gig anywhere.
These pickers are occasionally augmented here by some other great Austin-based folksmost notable two titans of pedal steel, the Wheels Lucky Oceans and the great Scotty Walls, and their equally renowned fiddlin friend Erik Hokkanen.
Other vital contributions come from Mary Cutrufello on twangy baritone guitar and former Small Face Ian McLagan with some fulsome Hammond fills on the funkier cuts.
With little more than a scrapbook of local rave notices to show for a 20+ year career in musicnot to mention advancing age and a receding hairlineits highly unlikely that this album is going to take Charlie Burton to the Big Time after so long as a local hero, but CMP is always happy to applaud the efforts of anyone who tries to expand the boundaries of country music without compromising what made it good in the first place.
To that end, Charlie Burton scores high on the ol clapometer. If youre ever down in Texas, look him up.
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