The Austin Chronicle

Live Shots

Reviewed by Christopher Gray, August 10, 2001, Music

Charlie Burton & the Texas 12-Steppers

Saxon Pub, August 3

Charlie Burton has been looking for love in all the wrong places. Unlucky have been HEB, site of "Wishful Thinking," and Eckerd, where he wanders the aisles ruminating "I Wonder, Is Propecia Right for Me?" (Women's names and hair-replacement drugs sound more alike every year.) Shopping for DVDs, he finds himself lusting after a new acquaintance "Even as We Speak." Then there's the unfortunate fate of his fellow Jenny Jones guest in the new song, "Reunited With a Girl I Haven't Seen for 15 Years," similar -- in fact, exactly so -- to that of another bad bitch in Johnny Cash's "Cocaine Blues." Burton is such a cult figure even his fans are too cool to come out to his shows. Thus, his gigs in Austin, whence he moved to from Nebraska in the early Nineties, have been sporadic at best. Monday night at the Hole in the Wall here, weekend at Flipnotics there, this from a guy who once told me he worked at a record shop where a young Matthew Sweet would come in and annoy him. The coolest thing about Burton is the way he likes to stand in front of the stage rather than on it, like he's in the front row at his own show. Friday, it afforded him (and the rest of us) a perfect vantage point to watch the Texas 12-Steppers in action. For his purportedly final show as an Austin resident, Burton recruited local guitarist Jim Stringer, Vic Gerard on the low end, and stickman F. Lee Potter, who had fun channeling Sun Records and the Ventures all night. When Burton broke a string, the trio launched into that instrumental from the Gravy Train dog-food commercial. Burton, naturally, was able to take back the reins for the tour de force he "co-wrote" with Ludwig van Beethoven, "(You're Not Playing Fair) Elise," his "pianissimo" instructions to the 12-Steppers taking the moment straight over the top. Over the 14-song set, though, the biggest laugh came on another song seemingly inspired by the supermarket, "Apples & Oranges." Here, Burton pulled off a surprisingly authentic Jimmie Dale Gilmore impression, his clipped tones growing properly nasal as he warbled the tres Zen refrain "Don't compare 'em, share 'em." Saxon manager Dave Cotton leaned over and said, "We've got to have this guy back more often." Let's hope so.

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