Wear Bluebells In Your Hat If You’re Goin’ That Way is the latest offering by Northern Ireland’s Joshua Burnside. Burnside is a Northern Irish Music Prize winner, and on this evidence, it’s not hard to see why. Described as an “experimental folk” singer/musician (who am I to argue), this is basically a re-issue of his 2013 EP, If You’re Goin That Way, but with some new songs added, and I’m guessing by the quality, re-recorded (the EP was recorded at home).
From the first few seconds of opener “Little Blind” I was hooked. A simple, haunting, piano motif is pierced by a snare drum that sounds like a shot from a starter pistol and grabs your attention in the same way. There is a slightly unnecessary banjo, which I do find a bit odd, but only because I find it distracts from the frankly gorgeous, double-tracked vocals.
After a minute and a half the song breaks down and the band regroup, step it up a gear,and start to kick ass. As an album’s opening track, this is pretty much as good as it gets.
Second track (and lead single) ‘Black Dog Sin‘, is a more tortured affair, as you’d expect with a title like that, and more worthy of the “experimental folk” label. It reminds me in places of ‘Dearly Departed‘ by the equally talented Shakey Graves, and that is indeed, a GOOD thing!
I have to admit, that I had to Google August 1973 to find out what had happened that month to make someone write a song about it. Given Burnside’s place of birth, there are probably a fair few things that could inspire someone. Whilst listening to the track, I came across a news item about a hotel fire on The Isle Of Man, where 53 lost their lives. I don’t know if the song is about that tragic event or not, but I don’t mind telling you that I shed a tear or two…
There are 9 wonderfully crafted songs here, some great arrangements (barely an electric guitar to be heard) and musicianship that whilst in most parts may seem simple, is more than competent. There are moments here that are achingly beautiful, some tragic, and some gloriously jaunty, but all of them completely compelling.
Some might say that on a ten track album, having two versions of one song might be considered short-changing your audience, but not in the case of ‘Desert Wine‘, the acoustic version is (along with the opening track) worth the price of this album alone.
Wear Bluebells In Your Hat… has elements of everything that I think a great album should have: Superb vocals, simply strummed acoustic guitars, string quartets, firecracker snare drums, and, obviously, quality songwriting.
An early January release means it will have a hell of a wait before the end of year “best album” lists get compiled, and stands a good chance of being forgotten before those accolades get bandied about. But I’m pretty sure that come December, I for one, will still be listening (and raving about it).
The self released Wear Bluebells In Your Hat If You’re Goin’ That Way s released on 11th January.