Mad For Trad

The mid-'90s explosion of trad country music in the bars on Nashville's lower Broadway neighborhood resulted in the launch of several remarkable talents, including BR5-49, Greg Garing and Paul Burch. Along with his tight little country band, the WPA Ballclub, Burch (who also plays with the eccentric group Lambchop) has now recorded three albums of sometimes quirky, often lovely modern songs and trad classic tunes.

Burch's fusion of past and present is evolving, but when it clicks the results can be scintillating. On "Isolda" (RealAudio excerpt) — a fantasy about a mythical countess — his sweet vocals (reminiscent of Jimmie Rodgers) float above Paul Niehaus' lilting steel guitar, which veers closer to the melodic sound of Hawaiian steel guitar than traditional country weeping.

The other side of the coin is Burch's fiddle-propelled country romps, like the only non-original song here, Flatt and Scruggs' supercharged "Head Over Heels" (RealAudio excerpt).

The line between traditional and retro can be a thin one, but as he proves on "Willpower" (RealAudio excerpt) — a song about self-realization masquerading as a tear-in-my-beer lament — Burch walks the line with skill.