Charlie Burton: One Man’s Trash

Charlie Burton
One Man's Trash: The Charlie Burton Story: '77-'99

THE NOTION THAT roots rock is ideally suited to cheap novelty laffs is as suspect as the notion that roots rock encapsulates the metaphorical, metaphysical truth of the American psyche. But you know what they say about rules and exceptions. Austin-based yukabilly songwriter Burton has accumulated more punch lines than a nation of morning zoos could in a year's worth of sweeps weeks, and he's done so without acknowledging a single post-Diddley beat innovation. From Chuck Berry rip to troglodyte garage thump to Coasters homage, it's still rock 'n' roll to him.

More to the point, he's created this body of work without dropping even the most oblique commentary on class or race or even sex (unless "The girls these days/Are looking for Oral Herschiser" confirms your experience of modern romance). If Mojo Nixon wiped the slobber off his chin and made like Marshall Crenshaw for a few sessions, maybe he'd approximate Burton's brio.

Not that Charlie's an unfeeling cad--take "Hungry for Love," which insists that his amorous starvation is more worthy of sympathy then the "hundreds...waiting for government cheese," or his reportedly "autobiofuckingraphable" tale of his parents' cardiac misfortune ("Water is thick/But blood is thicker/Daddy had a bum, a bum ticker"). Burton's aim is most true at its lowest--topping the bloodthirsty trucker's triplet "It's God's will/It's my thrill/Roadkill" with "Why didn't the chicken make it 'cross the road?/Cause I hit him with my load."

Granted, his roadhouse Beethoven "(You're Not Playing Fair) Elise!" rushes in where even Walter Murphy would fear to tread. But in a just cosmos, the title of the E.R. nailbiter "Breathe for Me Presley!" alone would earn Burton the right to spend at least one piddly fiscal quarter in the same tax bracket as "Weird" Al Yankovic.

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