When I was a child, I never really understood how anybody could ever feel sad. I thought to myself, “When you feel sad, why don’t you just decide to feel happy, instead?” Then the teenage years came along and things didn’t seem so happy anymore. Looking back, I miss that innocence of being a wee boy, running around, without a care in the world doing backies over fences into gardens. Life hadn’t kicked in yet.
‘The Only Thing I Fear‘, the latest from folk maestro Joshua Burnside, captures that feeling with scary accuracy.
Just as sorrowful break-up trauma is an accessory you can attach to your songs vicariously through quivering violins, pseudo-introspective adult anxiety tainted with childlike optimism, is an add – on born out of the melancholy story telling approach to songwriting that Joshua Burnside, is so good at.
Burnside’s soothing voice, hiding just a hint of his Irish and Ulster roots, is both powerful and moving. Here, he crafts a song built around near-whispering, like listening to a fable drip, from the beard of a well weathered man, his face animated and lit by the roaring fire likely beside him as the rain pelts down outside.
This latest single is a poignant reminder of the tales of real people and places, real loves and strife that Burnside so beautifully depicts in his songs. His vivid storytelling gives way to jarringly personal and insightful lines, as the listener, “floats above that endless ocean”, right alongside the writer.
‘The Only Thing I Fear’, is charming in its simplicity. Against the rapture of the entirely new world we find ourselves in, there is much to fear. Yet there is much comfort, to hear about all too familiar characters, emotions and situations found in this song; even the ghosts and tigers. It works perfectly for it’s transparency and vulnerability. When the song ends, there is no fanfare. It ends, accepting the instability that we all most confront with adulthood before tipping the hat to nostalgia and memory and resigning to a tumultuous and unknown journey ahead.
Joshua Burnside pours something of himself onto this track, as he recollects the experiences and perceptions of a soul both much older than he and yet, younger and more innocent. The stripped down subtlety throughout is staggering, bringing yet again further dimension to an already revered folk artist.
A candid portrait, both immensely personal and yet universal in its character. This is what Irish folk should be. Even the child inside me agrees.