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Burritos Serve Up Whole Enchilada

Food metaphors abound with tasty country-rock pioneers

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A burrito is only as good as its ingredients. But when you're using only the finest ingredients -- say, Flying Burrito Brother "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow on pedal steel, the Band's Garth Hudson on keys, and Charlotte's Carlton Moody singing lead, playing guitar and mandolin -- then you've got a Burrito Deluxe.

The music on the band's new release (their second), The Whole Enchilada, sounds like what you wish country music still sounded like. But the sounds of Burrito Deluxe aren't destined for that arena. "We're just out wanting to play and pretty much perform and just see where it might fit in," says Moody. "We do have some country songs on the album. I wouldn't call it really hard, up-tempo rock things, but we do have various types of styles, and Pete and Garth make it sound totally different, so we are going for that sound as opposed to just a country sound or a rock sound."

Moody, who now lives in that country music Mecca, France, performed gospel music along with his siblings and parents, Dwight and Cathy, on the family's weekly television show on WTVI-TV Charlotte between 1968 and 1971. By the late 70s, Moody formed the Moody Brothers Band and took his blend of gospel and bluegrass worldwide in the 80s, backing George Hamilton IV on European tours.

Kleinow has had a dual career as a musician and as lead animator for the Gumby studios -- he's also one of the people who came up with the Pillsbury Doughboy. But most know him for his innovative pedal steel work as a session man with artists ranging from Jackson Browne to Frank Zappa, as well as his work with the Flying Burrito Brothers -- a gig that came to an untimely end with Gram Parsons' death-by-overdose. You get the sense Kleinow has some regrets. "You gotta put it right at Gram's feet," he says reluctantly. "In my estimation, he caused the destruction of that band. I know he didn't mean to do it, but he was just really going off the deep end there, and he got to a point where myself and Chris Hillman were really bothered by all that."

"I was feeling my way along," Kleinow says of the Burrito period. "I didn't know hardly anything about the steel guitar myself. I just had this steel guitar that I got from my grandma and that was the first one I had. It just kind of grew on me."

While Kleinow's gained quite a reputation over the years, his other bandmate is practically rock & roll royalty. Though he is a prolific sideman and solo artist, Garth Hudson is best known for his work with the Band. The keyboard master says that the guiding, underlying principle in all his Band work was "to try to get a different texture, feeling, for each song." He speaks of having a "sense sound" that does something to the music, the things that you do as an orchestrator. "Those are my three jobs -- fills that aren't ridiculous between words, and of course pads, which would be texture and hopefully would change from song to song."

Hudson says it was an easy task with the Band because of the clarity of Robbie Robertson's writing and the contributions from Levon Helm. "Levon's storytelling underscores the whole life of the Band in way that I can't describe. Levon is a master drummer and a master storyteller," Hudson says.

Asked whether Helm and others in the Band had indeed helped with the songwriting that Robertson got chief credit for, Hudson is not as forthcoming. "I would say the way to deal with that was to take what I said up to the master story teller. And the next question would be...You see, it's real hard to complement these guys. I can't and don't feel I can put it into words yet. Does that get me out of the jam?" he asks with a hoarse chuckle.

Live, the Burritos, with the addition of bassist Jeff "Stick" Davis from the Amazing Rhythm Aces and session drummer Rick Lonow, will be doing a mix of classic Band tunes, Burrito Brothers favorites as well as a few familiar covers -- not to mention songs from the new album.

But this offer will be available only for a limited time. "I don't know if we're gonna be the group that does 200 dates a year because I don't think anybody's career will allow them to do that," says Moody. "I want to get out and play this music with these guys as much as I can and as much as they can. I just think it's time that younger people actually got a chance to listen to these guys play."

Burrito Deluxe plays the Neighborhood Theatre Friday. Matt King opens. Tickets are $22 in advance, $25 at the door, which opens at 7pm.

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