Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, 2004
CD review, by David Royko
Burchland is a two-movement suite composed by Charles W. Smith that brings together a chamber orchestra—in this case, that of Bowling Green—and Curtis Burch and his bluegrass band. The sighing, melancholy fiddle tune that runs through the eight-minute first movement, titled “Friends,” is immediately reminiscent of Ashokan Farewell, and is affecting in its wistful charm, allowing various instruments, most powerfully Burch’s resonator guitar, to guide the main theme. The second movement, “Pickin’ Party,” is what it suggests, with band members getting to strut. From the start, the movement evokes Aaron Copland’s Rodeo, right down to the woodblock’s clip-clops.
The remainder of the program, which also features chamber orchestra accompaniment, here arranged by Pam Thurman, is of tunes that should be familiar to contemporary bluegrass and newgrass fans, in particular three that were featured in Burch’s yearswith New Grass Revival: “Four Days Of Rain,” “This Heart Of Mine,” and “White Freight Liner Blues.” The fabulous Ruth Burch is the lead singer for the vocal material, and shines particularly brightly on “Summerfly.”
As for the blend of orchestra and ‘grass, it works in this case because the orchestra is not pushed into unnatural prominence, being employed for details and subtle enhancements. In Burchland, where the orchestra has a more central role, Smith has managed to play to each of these disparate ensembles’ strengths, resulting in a musical hybrid that should be palatable to newgrassers as well as traditionalists looking for something a bit different. (Bowling Green Chamber Orchestra, PO Box 1408, Bowling Green, KY 42102. www.bgchamberorchestra.org) DR