Thursday, December 3, 2015

Paul Burch takes on Jimmie Rodgers for new concept album Meridian Rising

Nashville's roots-minded Music Row outsider Paul Burch – who always seemed to be born out of time – steps into the shoes of "The Singing Brakeman" Jimmie Rodgers for his new concept album, Meridian Rising slated for release by Plowboy Records on February 26.

Much more ambitious than the conventional tribute album notion of simply reworking a few old faves, Meridian Rising is an imagined autobiography of the genre-defying 20's superstar in which Burch — writing and singing as Rodgers — recalls the locales, love affairs, and harrowing scraps that were all part of the Blue Yodeler’s brief but colorful life from his childhood in Meridian, Mississippi, to his death at New York's Taft Hotel in 1933.

According to Burch, the project was inspired by a studio outtake of the Rodgers classic “Let Me Be Your Sidetrack” recorded with bluesman Clifford Gibson (listen below). 
“They sounded joyous together,” he says. “It’s the only recording of Rodgers with a contemporary blues guitar player and the song became a kind of portal for me to jump into his life.”

Meridian Rising was co-produced with Grammy Award winner Dennis Crouch, the WPA Ballclub’s longtime upright bassist also known for his work in T Bone Burnett’s studio band (Rhiannon Giddens, Raising Sand, Elvis Costello). Players include Grammy winners Fats Kaplin and Tim O’Brien along with Jon Langford of the Waco Brothers, finger-style guitar renegade William Tyler, co-founder of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band Garry Tallent, and Billy Bragg, who makes a guest appearance in “If I Could Only Catch My Breath.”

While making Meridian Rising, Burch was given access to rarely seen archives at the Country Music Hall of Fame and C.F. Martin guitars and had conversations with Rodgers biographers Nolan Porterfield and Barry Mazor. The result is a musical tour-de-force that mirrors Rodger’s uncanny ability to seem timeless and modern simultaneously.
“Meridian Rising is a 21st century echo emanating from inside Jimmie Rodgers’ 1930s ears,” says noted music historian Robert Gordon, “The Singing Brakeman skirted both time and place to become America’s transcendent hobo, a walking, train-hopping singing crossroads of all things American. Here, the sounds of that spectacular crossroads are given a newfangled reimagining by a modern original.”

The initial vinyl run of Meridian Rising will include a limited-edition 10-inch EP of exclusive tracks featuring Billy Bragg, plus two songs recorded direct to the King Records cutting lathe at Third Man Records in addition to a full album download and a poster by Jon Langford. The album track "Meridian" which premiered on NPR last week can be heard below. For more information about Jimmie Rodgers and/or the Meridian Rising project, check out Paul Burch's site right here. 

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