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June 21, 2024

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Ken Burke
Arizona Songs (aka The Green Album) (Dr. Iguana Records)

By: Gary "Pig" Gold

This shiny new, digitally computerized age of ours has made it possible for just about any geek with a guitar and a few burnable bytes to produce, manufacture, and even distribute his very own, well, "album." While this inevitably results in a rash of material that otherwise would never get much heard outside of the family garage, it also means a rare few gems of inordinate quality squeak through which, left to a "real" record co., might go forever unheard.

"Arizona Songs" is definitely one of those latter, lustrous gems. Perhaps at times a wee under-polished, of course, but this is the kinda music big names and big budgets would probably only slice, dice, and ultimately slaughter. Conversely, Ken is happily one of the world's great at-home recording enthusiasts (among many other things!), and this disc gathers a full fifteen of the crazed, sometimes-sly-but-always-knockin' numbers which hitherto have gone prized by only a few of his closest pen pals.

And what great material it is! From the bottom-of-the-bottle "Daddy Was A Drinkin' Man" to the May/December romance quandary (recast as a Dance Craze or two) of "New Country Waltz," "Arizona Songs" leaves few musical idioms untouched --not to mention stripped down, shuffled wildly, and brazenly rebuilt. For example, at first glance "Blues Walked In," not to mention "8 x 10 Of The Blues," may appear as yet two more variations upon the age-old 12-bar, but cock-eared twists - especially lyrically - never lurk far from view. "Media Bullies," in fact, rawks dem blooze, maaaan in a wily Doors-meet-the-CNN-age sorta way, while "Heartaches With A Beat" and the truly delightful "Short Hot Mama" aim direct for the dance-floor, yet at the same time actually sport surprisingly sophisticated verbiage. Not so surprising, however, when one considers Ken's affinity with the written (and spoken) word: Long a mainstay of the world's most discriminating fanzines - like the one you're undoubtedly now reading! - Ken always weds his way with the verb with solid, rockabootin'-based foundations (why, "Don't Give Her Up" reads just like one of his infamous "Ask Dr. Iguana" advice columns set in the circa-1960 studios of those Sun kings!)

Three true future classics herein, however, best demonstrate Ken's mastery of the scope of life's little, uh, absurdities. "Dead Cat Song," with its hilariously incongruous cries of "howdy-howdy-hey," keeps you alternately laughing and squirming whilst it minutely details some unfortunate pet's rotting carcass (which, sports fans, you may also find pictured on this very disc's back cover); alternately, the delicate, gentle broken-heartplay of "Put Your Arms Around Me" and especially "Arizona Desert Song" result in no less than works of near Jimmy Webb calibre, I kid you not.

Indeed, there may very well be quite a load of material to absorb at once with this hour-long disc (tho a seven-song version is also rumored to exist). Nevertheless, you're sure to make many a new lifelong musical friend amongst these here Arizona Songs. I suggest you drop Ken a line and introduce yourself to some of them right now!

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