Review: Todd Burge – Building Characters
Todd Burge is one of West Virginia’s most prolific singer-songwriters and is back with one of two brand new offerings (another release is apparently geared more toward children). Todd has been consistently releasing albums and touring the country for the better part of twenty-five years. He is known for not pigeonholing himself into a particular style of music. Rather, he retains his musical integrity like any good singer-songwriter worth their salt would do. As he displays on “Building Characters,” Todd Burge is an accomplished musician and songwriter.
Characters are indeed created that are whimsical, mischievous, even nefarious, and catchy narratives attempt to engage the listener. Much of the things going on throughout the album could bring Warren Zevon to mind with vivid scenario descriptions and attempts to be bizarre when touching on a few controversial subjects and conveying his stories. The efforts to execute witty, tongue-in-cheek quips are moot, though, solely because of their delivery. The way the lines are arranged and the way words are sung might make the intended humor fall a little flat for some people.
The lead track, “Blue Monday” started off well enough, but Burge starts to employ a quasi-Hank Williams Sr. mid-syllable yodel technique to end certain phrases that just distract from the tune and melody itself. Possibly even his intended meaning. But it doesn’t stop there the yodeling turns into a strange scat-style yodel technique as if Hank Williams Sr. had been the sixth member of the Rat Pack. This is but one example of quite a few faux-pas lyrically and vocally speaking on this release. There are many attempts at creating humor on “Building Characters” from awkward “hook-ups,” to an televangelist’s erroneous arithmetic on the apocalypse countdown, a selfish woman using her husband as fertilizer, Joseph’s natural suspicions about Mary, and so on. But some people simply can’t pull off the appropriate timing in their delivery, and Mr. Burge appears to be one of those individuals on this recording.
On the other hand, “Building Characters,” musically, is a solid American folk record. Burge’s guitar is crystal clear and right up front. Loose drums backing him help give a kind of fun pace one could easily clap along with at any given time if the mood struck. It is very easy to picture Todd Burge performing this record in its entirety live with the entire house standing up clapping and smiling. A lot of them might even think that that the topics are indeed witty, so more power to them.
The album boasts the names of some of his major league friends, including Grammy-winner Tim O’Brien and Don Dixon as the record’s producer. Todd Burge is a renowned musician who has been in the game long enough to make his moves count within his musical realm. It appears that he has the respect of his peers and has marked his own spot on the rich tapestry of the West Virginia musical community. Whether or not this particular release hits the mark for all listeners, Todd Burge has proven consistently that he his here to stay and he will continue to do what he does the way he wants to do it.
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