Larry Burton
The Blues Just Stay the Same
Babylon 970101
In a nutshell, Larry Burton is a terrific songwriter and a talented guitarist; he has a really cool web site; but he can hardly sing to save his life. The lesser known half of the Burton brothers -- the other one is Chicago bassist/vocalist Aron Burton -- Larry has spent much of his career as a valued sideman for Albert Collins, Albert King and Johnny Littlejohn, and he has appeared frequently on recordings by these and other notable artists. Burton stepped up front on Hustler's Paradise, his first album, and this one, recorded in Nashville on his own label, finds him again taking the vocal and guitar leads through a set of 12 original tunes and an Elmore James cover ("Coming Home").

Burton is an exceptional songwriter with the indispensable ability to paint vivid word pictures: "By the time I reached the city limits/He was already there/Before I crossed the county line/Your legs were in the air" comes from "How Could I Be Such a Fool." He can also spin you on your heels with a trenchant line like "I went to Chicago on a lark/They had turned the blues into a theme park" in an otherwise innocuous song ("Good Idea at the Time"), or put crackheads in poetic perspective: "Sun comes up, sun goes down/It doesn't matter if you're not around" ("Pipe Dream"). And on a haunting ode to the blues ("The Blues Just Stay the Same") Burton waxes: "Heartache and misfortune are seldom tame/They present themselves to you by many different names/But the blues, yes, the blues just stay the same."

It is primarily as a guitarist that Larry Burton has earned his keep, and his playing leaves no mystery why he has worked steady for many years. He can rock as hard as any teen wonder (but with the taste and maturity of a man) or slow down to a heart-stopping, out-of-phase electric slide, as he does on the shimmering instrumental "Delta Sundown." The backing is adequate if nondescript, highlighted by Kurt Bislin's overamplified harp work. Overall, The Blues Just Stay the Same is a very fine effort marred only by Burton's limited vocal ability. Singing in key would help, for starters.

-- Jack Oudiz

This page and all contents are © 1997 by BLUES ACCESS,
Boulder, CO, USA.