August 2006

Billy Burnette - Memphis in Manhattan
Chesky JD299
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by Katherine Silkaitis

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

Rockabilly singer Billy Burnette already has his street credit well established. If being the son of '60s country singer Dorsey Burnette wasn't enough, Burnette has pulled a stint with Fleetwood Mac, replacing Lindsay Buckingham after the guitarist left the group. Regardless, don't expect Burnette's latest album, Memphis in Manhattan, to sound anything like that neo-psychedelic classic rock. The album's 11 tracks are straight-ahead rockabilly blues. Burnette incorporates a wide variety of songs into the album -- four original compositions, two by his father, and an odd smattering of covers, including Bob Dylan's "Everything Is Broken" and the Everly Brothers hit "Bye Bye Love." Burnette's compositions, especially "My Love Will Not Change," so perfectly capture the essence of old-school country that it is surprising the tunes were not written a half-century ago.

In addition to his songwriting prowess, Burnette is an able guitarist and singer. From the slow ballad "Faded Love," to the up-tempo, rocking "My Love Will Not Change," Burnette is adept at attractively portraying every emotion in the book. His guitar picking is quick, clean, impeccable, and fascinating to listen to, especially on "Tear It Up." Memphis in Manhattan is full of twangy guitars, earnest vocals and catchy, imaginative melodies. The closing, "Bye Bye Love," however, is a little anticlimactic. While perfectly pleasant, it doesn't quite measure up to the originality of the rest of the album.

As with most Chesky recordings, the sound is excellent -- everything from cymbal crashes to minute vocal stylings are clean and clear, making Memphis in Manhattan all-around impressive.