Belfast’s premier folk artist Joshua Burnside returns with his newest album ‘Wear Bluebells In Your Hat If You’re Going That Way.’ Always far from a one trick pony, Burnside’s latest release sees him flex his creative biceps. While the same folkish fire remains, WEAR has elements as far reaching as alternative rock and indie present throughout, something that only betters his music and allows for a more complete, well rounded sounding record.
Those looking for evidence of this need search no further than opener ‘Little Blind’, which varies between rustic folk, electric grungy guitar twangs and bluesy keys. And while this diversification of sound is welcomed, it’s not exactly new territory for the face of Quiet Arch. Thematically anyway. Never one to shy from complex, intangible themes (most notably nostalgia, childhood, fear and hope), Burnside’s ever-growing repertoire of sounds and stories continues with WEAR, which sees some of his best work yet.
Ranging from elegant strumming to vaudevillian, nearly nursery rhyme-esque, plucked strings, WEAR is a tight operation despite having musical boundaries that could span continents. There are no wasted bars, and each verse has a unique personality that fits in with the overarching bucolic demeanour.
As with much of the singer-songwriters work, the core of WEAR is one of uncertainty (“What does it mean?” – ‘Black Dog Sin’, “I’m holding on the edge of the planet, Sometimes I feel I could easily fall off” – ‘Drive In Another Time’). This is not to suggest a lack of confidence, but rather an indulgence in the power of questions, in a mental and spiritual wanderlust. Even the title suggests as much. It’s not a command or even a direction, but freely offered advice should you decide to continue along the path, or venture into the unknown. Yet, despite the dense, teeming jungles (‘Desert Wine’, with its upbeat percussions and stream of consciousness canticles) and the bleak peninsulas (the fearful, burning peril of ‘August 1973′) of WEAR, Burnside is always able to navigate his way back to the well-trodden cobblestones, warm strings and acoustics of his familiar folk (‘Half Homes’, ‘Platonia’).
Human to a fault, WEAR is critical of simplicity, of progress for its own sake and especially of perfection, choosing instead to revel in mortal emotion. Burnside’s melodies are driven by a handful of recollections and images, purposeless without him and infinite with him. In sharing them, he makes them immortal, a thankless labour of love that gives each strum of his guitar a genuine, earnest heartbeat.
A window into the world of a man fuelled by ambiguity, connections and passion, WEAR is a portrait of an artist whose only protection against the ever-changing is his music and memories. Joshua Burnside’s latest is some of his best; from genuine lyricism that is equal parts imaginative (“I land in the backseat of an old Monday”), thoughtful (“I said it comes easy, but I was wrong) and humorous (“You thought I was a hummingbird but I’m a crocodile”), to his complex composition that manages to sound so delicately simplistic.
Wear Bluebells In Your Hat If You’re Going That Way is a pleasure to listen to and another addition to an already potent discography for Joshua Burnside.