Monday, February 06, 2012

Waco Brothers & Paul Burch - Great Chicago Fire

If I didn't have enough reasons to look forward to the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas next month, I have another one after listening to the Waco Brothers and Paul Burch's Great Chicago Fire.

The album will be released by Bloodshot Records on April 24, but the raucous Chicago country punks and the talented but under-appreciated Nashville singer/songwriter will be performing together at SXSW.

As much as I love the Wacos' unpredictable Austin shows and can sing along with most of their songs, it will be good to hear new material since this is their first studio album since 2005's Freedom and Weep. I've never seen Burch perform, but was an advocate of 2003's Fool for Love, enjoyed his interpretations on last year's Words of Love: Songs of Buddy Holly, and have liked what I've heard from him from various compilations and collaborations.

Waco Brothers' Deano Schlabowske and Joe Camarillo at Guero's in Austin.


So I thought this would be a combination that fits squarely into my wheelhouse, especially after finding out that it was brokered over margaritas at Guero's in Austin. I've enjoyed a few of those tequila-laced cocktails with musicians over the years there, too.

My high expectations for Great Chicago Fire were met easily, right from the opening up-tempo title track and its shared lead vocals, female harmonies, up-front guitars and T-Rex influence ("20th Century Boy" has long been a staple of Wacos performances, so perhaps that isn't as surprising as one might initially think).

Deano Schlabowske sings lead on the Tejano meets Jason and The Scorchers-ish "Give In" and "On The Sly," while offering a nifty guitar solo in "Up On The Mountain."
Waco Brothers' Jon Langford, Deano Schlabowske and Tracey Dear.



Jon Langford's insurgent country number "Cannonball" is sweetened by the backing vocals of Tawney Newsome and Bethany Thomas, and "Someone That You Know" canters along jauntily.

Burch's "Wrong Side of Love" is poppy, but with a honky-tonk element courtesy of Pat Brennan's piano. Brennan adds accordion to "Monterey," which would do the Texas Tornados proud. The more lush "Flight to Spain" is surprisingly restrained, but the guitar-fuelled "Transfusion Blues" returns to more familiar Wacos territory.

Bryan Ferry's cover of Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" remains my favourite, but the bluesy singalong version that ends this album certainly isn't a disappointment.

Great Chicago Fire is my favourite album of 2012 so far, and I can't envision it not being among my top picks 47 weeks from now.

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