Joshua Burnside - Wear Bluebells In Your Hat If You’re Goin’ That Way - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Joshua Burnside - Wear Bluebells In Your Hat If You’re Goin’ That Way

by Brian Thompson Rating:8 Release Date:2019-01-11
Joshua Burnside - Wear Bluebells In Your Hat If You’re Goin’ That Way
Joshua Burnside - Wear Bluebells In Your Hat If You’re Goin’ That Way

It’s been just over five years since Joshua Burnside released 2013’s If You're Goin’ That Way EP, but for the Northern Irish folkster, it’s still a work in progress, and, as such, subject to any necessary alterations. For its deluxe reissue, Burnside hasn’t simply added four new experimental folk tracks and an acoustic reimagining of one of the original set of five; he’s also offered up an addendum to its title, slapping Wear Bluebells In Your Hat in front of the existing qualifier and giving it an added depth. As we’ve come to expect from this vibrant, rattling singer-songwriter, Burnside’s latest effort finds him revisiting his past, tweaking the nuances of the brooding vignettes as he sees fit.  

One of Burnside’s greatest lessons from hindsight is toying with the sequencing a bit, opening his stroll down memory lane with the conversational former centerpiece “Little Blind.” A sharp exhibition of so many of his strongest traits as a craftsman, the perpetual shapeshifter begins with banjo flourishes draped over a swaying drawl and then morphs into a sleepy, off-kilter piano rag before exploding into a fierce and overpowering rocker. It’s rare that a Joshua Burnside track is straightforward, and this song is a showcase of just how many conflicting tones and aesthetics he’s able to juggle at once.

From there, he dives into one of his most well-loved singles, “Black Dog Sin,” before resuming the EP’s original tracklist. The twanged out dreamscape is a sinister, eerie journey through folklore-driven Americana, propelled forward by tightly plucked strings and high energy screams. Guitar twinkles still glide over electronic waves and boisterous percussion on “Dessert Wine,” although it now comes coupled with its own stripped down skeleton a little further into the record. And, of course, fan favorites like traditional folk ballad campfire sing-a-long ”August 1973” and creaky, static-heavy secular hymn ”Half Homes” round off the initial storyline with a haunting grace that eloquently underlines their layered harmonies.

The new additions to the progression find Burnside wearing his influence on his sleeve. Arrangements such as “Mean Man” and “Drive in Another Time” invite comparisons to Neil Young and early Bob Dylan, while also highlighting their creator’s inescapable Celtic roots. On these numbers, Burnside tunes down the electronic explorations, opting instead for a more ageless, everlasting sound. While his experimentation has birthed some of his most ambitious and enduring work, it’s a welcome change in pace when he finds comfort in sheer simplicity.

Many wouldn’t consider Joshua Burnside’s catalog extensive enough to justify revisiting any one piece of work this early in his career. However, the play makes perfect sense on Wear Bluebells In Your Hat If You’re Goin’ That Way. Burnside knows precisely what he’s doing, as he picks apart his repertoire and rearranges it. A creative pursuit is never truly completed; it is simply captured at a specific moment in time. Burnside’s willingness to reevaluate and evolve may very well prove to be his most dexterous attributes as an artist.

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