The difference between Burch and most of his Nashville neighbours is pretty simple. “To others,” he tells Uncut, “making music is simply work. To me, it’s a matter of life and death.” Fitting, then, that Fool For Love?his fifth album?is the album of his life. Deceptively easy on the ear, he’s cut back on instrumental clutter to create the intimate mood of a perpetually moonstruck gypsy, clip-clopping to the classic rhythm of American country and rock’n’roll. Part-Everlys, part-Orbison, Burch wears these wonderful songs like a second hide, slipping effortlessly into honky-tonk, old-time swing and lonesome folk. The sort of record you wish more people made, rather than the lone stoking of a dying art. But then again, to sound this simple?this wise?is anything but straightforward. Since fetching up in Nashville via Indiana in the early ’90s, Burch has daubed fresh colour onto a rapidly greying honky-tonk scene, forming the WPA Ballclub with steel guitarist Paul Niehaus (also a Lambchop card-carrier) and stealing the attentions of Chet Atkins, Cowboy Jack Clement and the late Bill Monroe, alongside guest spots on LPs by Vic Chesnutt, Josh Rouse and The Pine Valley Cosmonauts. And it’s this easy straddling of the traditional and new that makes him unique. More Gene Autry than Woody Guthrie, Burch’s voice is pitch-perfect for gunslinger balladry, while the spare arrangements (exquisitely realised by various WPA backers) are firmly rooted in the now.
Opener “Lovesick Blues Boy” could be Marty Robbins pining over a gentle horsebeat canter. The stunning “Time To Cry” is a dollop of Roy Orbison over warm acoustic guitar. “Sparks Fly Out” is country-skiffle, Burch’s overdubbed harmonies sweet as primetime Don’n’Phil. Elsewhere, the Hawaiian steel strum of classic doughboy swinger, “If You’re Gonna Love Me”, is offset by the softly spartan “Deserted Love” and “Like Railroad Steel”, in which Burch keens and flexes his voice like a wind-ruffled willow.