Music News & Reviews

Walter Tunis: Paul Burch brings his scholarly Americana back to Willie's

Paul Burch and the WPA Club perform at Willie's Locally Known in Lexington, Ky., on Nov. 21, 2014. Photo by Melissa Fuller.
Paul Burch and the WPA Club perform at Willie's Locally Known in Lexington, Ky., on Nov. 21, 2014. Photo by Melissa Fuller.

Paul Burch and the WPA Club

Niles Foley opening. 8 p.m. Nov. 21 at Willie's Locally Known, 805 N.Broadway. $10. (859) 281-1116.

Indulge in even a casual listen to the rock, pop and country fare that makes up Fevers, the newest album by Paul Burch, and you quickly get a sense of the roots-driven source material this longtime Nashvillian draws from.

Take the album-opening fiddle tune Cluck Old Hen, a staple of numerous bluegrass repertoires. Burch offers his own spin by transferring the principal melody to mandolin and then setting the resulting sounds to a decidedly Eastern groove. It's still string music — providing your bluegrass comes from Morocco.

Less exotic but equally enticing is the earnest Bo Diddley beat that propels Couldn't Get a Witness and the hardcore honky tonk charm of Straight Tears, No Chaser that chugs along with touch of Nick Lowe-like cunning ("I'm going to mix me a cocktail called regret and everything's going in").

Want more? Then try the mambo-laced Everly Brothers pop of Two Trains Pullin', the parlor-like piano crooning duet with Kelly Hogan on Ocean of Tears, the blues rumble (again with echoes of Lowe) of Luck Run Out and the Cajun slant that permeates Sac Au Lait (Acadia's Song). It's all in a record's work for Burch, who has been making similarly scholarly Americana albums for the better part of two decades.

A native of the Washington, D.C., area, Burch relocated to Nashvllle in the early 1990s and became part of a vital roots revival scene on Lower Broadway at venues like the famed Tootsie's Orchid Lounge along with bands such as BR549. Since then, his career has yielded a string of 10 strong albums (several of which are being planned for re-release), collaborations with an array of cross-generational greats (Ralph Stanley, Mark Knopfler, Vic Chesnutt and Ray Price) and a consistently active touring schedule that has made him a semi-regular in Lexington with frequent performance visits to Willie's Locally Known and the Christ the King Oktoberfest. Burch returns to the former on Friday.

A May 2013 performance at Willie's revealed — despite an obvious reverence for concise, emotive pop — a stylistic scope as vast as Burch's recordings. His set at the time boasted bits of subtle swing (Little Bells), retro country (Like a Train), elegant pop (Waiting for My Ship) along with the easygoing drive of his WPA Club trio.

Preceding Burch Friday night at Willie's will be Niles Foley, a new roots music troupe out of Louisville featuring fiddler Scott Moore of the 23 String Band, which recently announced it is going on an "indefinite hiatus."

Returning Bones

The last time St. Paul and the Broken Bones played Louisville was an after-hours gig at Headliners Music Hall that was presented in conjunction with the Forecastle Festival. It was promoted as a midnight show. But with an opening act on the bill, the Broken Bones' estimated start time was a glorious 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning.

Expect soul singer Paul Janeway and his horn fortified band to be hitting the Headliners stage (1386 Lexington Rd. in Louisville) at a slightly more civilized hour this weekend. They return to the club for a 9 p.m. show on Saturday with Great Peacock opening.

Still no word on a return to Lexington for the Alabama soul stylists, who introduced themselves to the region via performances at Willie's Locally Known and an indie video shot in December 2012 at Lexington Center by Shaker Steps. You can even see the Christmas tree in Triangle Park through the windows behind the band.

St. Paul and the Broken Bones is still touring behind its 2014 album, Half the City.

For tickets, call (502) 584-8088 or go to