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Thursday, June 10, 2004 08:03 pm

Burch masters the timeless quality of classic country

Paul Burch

Paul Burch is one of the craftiest composers alive. A bona fide difference exists between songwriters and composers, and Burch falls squarely into the latter group. Beyond good lyrics with three-chord fare, Burch's melodies are ripe with subtle nuances and textured intricacy. Tremolo guitar enhances the mood of desolation, muted bass lines demonstrate a man on the run, and bright progressions bring to life hedonist joy. So perfect is his latest recording (Fool for Love, his first for the maverick Bloodshot Records) that accusations of endless studio tinkering may fly. That notion is quickly thwarted once Burch's live set begins. Burch and his musical mates, the WPA Ballclub, are just that good.

But Burch's lyrics have been his calling card. Plainspoken irony may be an oxymoron, but it is a trick Burch excels at nonetheless. Common tales of life and love are given uncommon treatment. He relies on clever eloquence, using acrid wit (à la Robbie Fulks) far more sparingly. Burch's words roll in a mellifluous stream as if that's just the way he talks.

Burch's voice is another feature distinguishing him from the songwriter class. Burch's country crooning, somehow uniting Lefty Frizzell with Harry Connick Jr. and delivered with a handsome touch of Chris Isaak, is as sweet to the ears as his words are to the mind.

Expect an incredible night of music when you head to the Underground City Tavern this Saturday night. At times you'll bounceto his voice like a lad on his grandpappy's knee; at others, you'll just shimmy to the beat.

Paul Burch performs at 9 p.m. Saturday, June 12, at the Underground City Tavern, Hilton Springfield, 700 E. Adams St.; 217-789-1530

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