Following on from his splendid Wear Bluebells In Your Hat If You’re Goin’ That Way album from January this year, Joshua Burnside now releases a fantastic live record which includes precisely none of the tracks featured on the aforementioned long player.
Beginning with ‘The Good Word‘ from 2017’s Ephrata, you could easily be persuaded that Burnside is the missing link between Leonard Cohen and Richard Thompson, and to some extent that’s true, but the Belfast man’s music is rather more misty eyed then either of those two, to the extent that it sometimes makes you feel like you’re being carried away on soft, fluffy clouds. That’s especially true of ‘Holllllogram‘ (sic), and I’m not sure there’s anyone better right now to crash out and listen to on a blanket in the sunshine. It’s truly beautiful music, it really is.
It’s funny really, because I’ve never been that much of a fan of live albums, but this is an exception to that rule, because, if anything, it serves as confirmation that Burnside in concert is utterly mesmeric. I’ll be sure to catch him as soon as I can on the strength of it, and there’s the mouthwatering prospect that next time, the stunning tunes on …Bluebells will most likely be part of the set too.
“We rehearsed this song in D Sharp, but I’m gonna play it in F” says Burnside mischievously at the beginning of ‘The Unrequited Kind‘, a song which sounds, at the outset, like it’s going to be some kind of bedfellow of The Doors‘ version of ‘Alabama Song‘, but soon becomes stamped with Burnside’s trademark winsome sway. Lyrically he often recalls Tom Waits, in that he finds beauty in places where it shouldn’t be – the lonely barflies with a longing to be loved, at least long enough to numb the pain, if nothing else. The first few verses of this song probably reflect this better than anywhere else: “Stumbling down Sauchiehall Sunday morning, afraid that if I fall, I won’t get back up again / At Charing Cross, I throw up. I feel sixteen again / When I drank ten pints and passed out to get closer to you, it was a simple enough plan, but I didn’t really think it through.” It’s both charming and heartbreaking at the same time, and that, in a nutshell, is what Joshua Burnside is all about, though he’s no one trick pony, as faster songs like ‘Northern Winds‘ recall early Waterboys and obviously this is no bad thing.
Whichever way you look at it, Joshua Burnside is one hell of a talent.
Live at The Elmwood Hall is out now on Quiet Arch.