Todd Burge, |
My Lost & Found
(Bunj Jam, 2008)
West Virginia singer-songwriter Todd Burge's compositions skip along on easy-going rhythms that call the late John Hartford's songs to mind, with something of the same amiably bent sensibility. And there's something of John Prine there. It's not only that Prine's influence is ubiquitous among a certain class of rooted modern composers. In this case, Burge's CD was recorded in the Butcher Shoppe, which happens to be Prine's studio in Nashville. The irresistible "Baby Ray" sounds like a particularly witty Prine tune, and that's a real good thing. Even the Roger Miller quote at the end feels Prinesque.
My Lost & Found is produced by folk/bluegrass/country artist Tim O'Brien, himself a native West Virginian and arguably the hardest-working man in roots music. Besides himself, O'Brien brings four top-of-the-line musicians into the studio, among them his sometime performing partner Dirk Powell, whose Cajun-inflected accordion feels about as friendly as a musical instrument can be. The overall sound keeps always bright and surprising, so sharp that sometimes you could swear sparks are coming out of your speakers.
Even with evident influences Burge has his own talent, which is good-sized, and his own eye, which is sharp. The tunes and arrangements mix folk, bluegrass and pop in varying degrees of strength. In contrast with many singer-songwriter albums, here one cut is clearly distinguishable from the one before and after. Burge also has the rare ability to express love for a small child while keeping sense of ironic humor fully functioning and skirting any hint of sentimental slush. Any parent, especially those of us who recoil at kiddie kitsch, will appreciate "She Looks Up to Me (Because She Has To)." It's safe to predict that that little girl will grow up with a marvelously comic outlook on herself and all around her.
Burge is perfectly capable of writing sober songs, too. Even then, the wit is never far off in the distance. The closing cut, "Buffalo Skinned by All the King's Men," is a serious anti-Iraq war ballad, its melody and lyrics parodying the grim frontier ballad "Buffalo Skinners," but it's still ... well, odd. Maybe it's that penultimate verse, as anachronistic as it is crude. Effective, though.
13 December 2008
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