NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Paul Burch celebrates his 10th album release, Meridian Rising, via Plowboy Records on February 26, 2016.
Meridian Rising is claimed to be a first-of-its-kind concept album based on the life of Jimmie Rodgers — ‘the genre-breaking superstar of the late 1920s whose blend of pop, folk, and blues anticipated rock ’n’ roll.’
The album also includes the issue of a limited-edition 10-inch EP of vinyl-only tracks featuring Billy Bragg, plus two songs recorded direct to the King Records cutting lathe at Third Man Records. The vinyl 10-inch includes a full download of Meridian Rising along with a poster by Country Music Hall of Fame artist-in-residence Jon Langford.
For more than two decades, Burch has combined an indie rock ethos with a personal vision of roots music that has attracted a mix of collaborators that has included Lambchop, Mark Knopfler, Vic Chesnutt, Candi Staton, the Waco Brothers, and Ralph Stanley.
“At the risk of being impeached by the bluegrass purists,” wrote legendary music critic Chet Flippo in 2006, “I think Burch is the best duet partner Ralph Stanley has found since his brother, Carter Stanley, died in 1966.”
Meridian Rising is an imagined autobiography of Jimmie Rodgers with Burch — writing and singing as Rodgers — recalls the locales, love affairs, and harrowing scraps that were all part of Rodger’s brief but colourful life.
The album – which follows Rodgers’ life from his childhood in Meridian, Mississippi, to his death at the Hotel Taft in New York in 1933 – was inspired by a studio outtake of the Rodgers classic ‘Let Me Be Your Sidetrack’ recorded with bluesman Clifford Gibson.
“They sounded joyous together,” says Burch. “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/Mekons, guitarist William Tyler, E Street Band co-founder Garry Tallent, and Billy Bragg, who, along with Langford, 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 frequent conversations with Rodgers biographers Nolan Porterfield and Barry Mazor.
“Meridian Rising is a 21st century echo emanating from inside Jimmie Rodgers’ 1930s ears,” says Grammy-winning author and Best of Enemies filmmaker 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.”
Burch served as a music consultant to the PBS film The Appalachians and can be heard in HBOs True Blood as well as the soundtracks to The Rookie and History of Violence.
Last spring Burch performed at the White House for his contribution to Hip Hop for Public Health’s Songs for a Healthier America, an innovative collaboration with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign featuring Chuck D and Doug E. Fresh.
And Burch’s tribute to Buddy Holly: Words of Love, led to a new fan in Holly’s widow, Maria Elena. “Words of Love is beautiful,” said Maria Elena. “Paul has everything Buddy wanted to hear in an artist — his own style and his own sound.”
“I’m a Paul Burch fan,” says Peter Guralnick, author of biographies on Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke and most recently Sam Phillips. “How could I not be? His music never fails to achieve its purpose, what Sun Records founder Sam Phillips has deemed the unequivocal purpose of every kind of music: to lift up, to deepen, to intensify the spirit of audience and musicians alike.”