Joshua Burnell – Songs From The Seasons
‘Songs From The Seasons’ began life as part of a wider writing and recording project undertaken by Joshua Burnell in 2016 that was inspired by the changing seasons of the weather and ended up with fifty two classic English and European folk songs revisited and re-recorded. Now fourteen of those songs have been collated together for this new release by the English folk-rock musician.
The record treats the listener to a feast of both familiar and lesser-known folk songs and instrumentals that many will recognise. ‘King Of The Fairies’, probably best known to Horslips fans, is punchy and sparkles with acoustic joy here, while Fairport Convention fans will delight upon hearing Burnell’s versions of ‘Tam Lin’ and ‘Reynardine The Werefox’, both updated with fresh energy and zest.
It isn’t all straightforward folk music though. ‘The Snows They Melt The Soonest’ dips into prog-rock territory with its infectious swirling Hammond organ, jazzy bass lines and tight whistle playing it gives a nod in the direction of late 1970s Jethro Tull.
As an accomplished musician, Burnell plays almost all the instruments on the record. Hammond organ, drums, guitars, accordion and whistle to name but a few while his vocal delivery, timing, and phrasing perfectly fit the demands of folk rhyming and the fast structural changes of the music.
Classic story telling is a delight in the chosen material. ‘Two Magicians’, with revised lyrics by Burnell, tells the vivid shape-shifting tale of a lustful blacksmith stalking a maiden with the intention of stealing her virtue and how his downfall is brought about by the wiser maiden.
‘Robin Hood And The Peddler’ recounts the violent tale of a streetwise peddler who outwits and outfights Hood and Little John only to discover that he is Hood’s long-lost cousin. ‘Mrs. McGraw’ gives the listener insight into the mind of a mother trying to cope with the return of a wounded son from the war in Spain and vividly portrays both his and her shock and disbelief at his injuries.
Fantasy abounds in ‘The Nightingale’. Adapted from an old Danish collection of tales unearthed by Burnell it takes the listener into a classic fairy tale scenario. In this instance, a cursed maiden trapped within a castle is the nightingale who is courted by a young knight who eventually rescues her from her prison only for the two of them to suffer tragic and heartbreaking consequences.
Without a doubt, this is the stand out track of the collection. Francis Sladen shares vocals with Burnell and the musical arrangements shine while Ben Burnell adds a soulful and melancholy guitar solo that highlights the tragedy within the song.
With this collection, Joshua Burnell has cleverly re-imagined and rejuvenated a genre that is clearly dear to his heart. By doing so, Burnell has further furnished his credentials as a modern-day minstrel whose skills equal the abilities and passion of the old wandering minstrels of yore.
‘Songs From The Seasons’ is released on 4th May 2018 on Misted Valley Records.