Travis Linville & The Burtschi Brothers, Uncertain Texas (Travis Linville Productions, 2000)
As the Burtschi Brothers are preparing to release their next CD in February 2002, it seems fitting to take a good look at the undeserved obscurity of their previous one.
One of the reasons for that obscurity is that the Burtschis have sometimes quietly been called a "band's band". Their fans include the Red Dirt Rangers, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, and Cross-Canadian Ragweed (all of which offer Burtschi links on their respective websites). Being in part a "band's band" usually means the group is particularly artistic (as with the cogent and abstract lyricism of Jamie Kelley) and is busy breaking the usual rules. Certainly this could be said of the heroic instrumental orgasms which Travis Linville is known to give his guitar for the sake of a thrilling song. The Waylonesque romping of "Few More Miles to Mexico" affirms the outlaw roots of this group, which has no trouble escaping the mold of "contemporary country".
Put another way, as the band has with lines from the opening song of its first album, "If I've seen the last of Tulsa, sure as hell won't shed no tears." The post big-production-country angst is apparent in the Burtschi style, and indeed Travis has cause to sing "All of the music's been played...." Still, the Burtschi Brothers disprove the death of Country by searching for its roots in solid underlying Americana. It's rare that a newer band has three songs on its first album that are hits, but I've seen the Burtschis on stage a few times (notably when they opened for outlaw-of-outlaws David Allen Coe this last year). "Low Down Livin'", "Few More Miles to Mexico", and "Tulsa" are continual crowd-pleasers, and the dynamism of their performances often puts to shame other acts with whom they share a stage. With the CD, too, one gets a healthy dose of the vibrancy with which they fill a room.
With diverse backgrounds not only in ountry and Americana but also in the jazz flavor (ala Thelonius Monk) especially evident in the track "2009", in bluegrass, and in contemporary pop, the Burtschi Brothers might do anything -- except the unoriginal. One thing they're certain to do is please the ear with bar songs, road songs, Linville's tingling vocals and dazzling guitar antics, and the thumping bass of Jamie Kelley.
The Burtschis are on the edge of Americana/alternative country, and the creative instrumentals and vocal arrangements on their premier album offer us a fine cut.
More information on the Burtschis can be had at burtschi.com, and early samples can be heard here. Uncertain Texas is available, among other places, at Lone Star Music.