PAUL BURCH opening for RYAN ADAMS at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Monday (October 8). $15. 416-532-1598. Rating: NNNNN
Turning novels into records is anything but typical for country artists, but then, Nashville's Paul Burch isn't your typical Stetson-topped Music Row rounder.
When Nashville neighbour Tony Earley asked Burch if he could provide some suitably twangy period accompaniment for a reading of his first novel, Jim The Boy, set in the Depression, Burch had a better idea.
A couple of weeks later, he came back with a completed song cycle based on the small-town characters, and then further developed it into the compelling Last Of My Kind (Merge) album.
While Burch might not yet be ready for a run at musical theatre, the idea does bring to mind Roger Miller's ambitious Big River project.
"Really, my whole reason for wanting to do this was because Roger Miller did Big River," confides Burch. "To be considered a good writer, I think you've got to try some things you could absolutely fail at.
"And I think Roger did a wonderful job on his theatrical production, but it's something no other serious writer in country music has ever tried to do. I mean, to make a collection of songs that stand on their own yet can also be part of some larger context in a way that allows other voices to sing them -- no one's attempted that. Not Willie Nelson, not Kris Kristofferson, nobody."
Burch might get his chance. The Hallmark Hall Of Fame television series has bought the rights to Earley's best-seller, and they're going to need a soundtrack.
"Well," laughs Burch, "after much slinging of CDs onto invisible desks, one of the producers phoned Tony Earley to ask, "Isn't there some music already recorded for this book?' So I sent six more, and apparently they've got my album now.
"Maybe they'll get Celine Dion to record a two-and-a-half-minute version of Polio, but I don't know. Thus far, Hollywood has not called."