Dave Burn – Arizona
Self Released – 2017
Formed in 2009, London-based country-folk outfit ahab were touted for big things but sadly never made the crossing from critical acclaim to commercial success. After calling it a day, singer Dave Burn went on to form Orphan Colours with fellow ahab member Steve Llewellyn alongside Fred Abbot from the now defunct Noah and the Whale, Danny and the Champs drummer Steve Brookes and folk singer Graham Knight.
Finally, however, he’s put together a debut solo album, one that reflects the lengthy periods he spent in America with his grandfather in Arizona (hence, the album title), but also the folk roots of his homeland. Produced by Abbot, Arizona features Knight on bass and piano, and Kristen Adamson, Burn senior, Llewellyn and fellow ex-ahab member Luke Price on harmonies. The album opens with Fine Company, a circling acoustic guitar pattern backdropping Burn’s trad-folk inflected vocals before the drums, and electric guitars kick in for a punchier rolling rhythm sound that echoes Matthews Southern Comfort, as indeed does Till I’m Gone later in the album.
With its mandolin notes and another circling melody line, the second number, Wasted, particularly recalls The Hooters, the crowd-friendly chorus line underlining Burn’s ability to come up with hooks that dig into the mind and refuse to leave. And, while I’m dealing the comparison cards, the next track, Vans, one of those rare songs that look at a musician’s life on the road through shit-tinted glasses, puts me in mind of Justin Rutledge, not a compliment I dish out readily.
Over the course of the twelve tracks, Burn draws on personal experiences and his Americana influences to weave a reflective web that embraces both the brushed drums uptempo Calexico-ish shuffle of Born To Do and the spare acoustic fingerpicking of the cello stained Litter and the Leaves. A pleading song about losing love it finds a thematic companion piece in the piano backed striding rhythm of The Lie On My Breath, a countrified number that’ll be just as at home on a festival stage as in some Midwest barroom.
Slow waltzer Love This Song feels like a classic, breezy Clive Gregson number with the pace taken down while the final stretch also yields the folksier colours of The Breath, another circling fingerpicked circling motif, here caressed with Tom Holden’s violin. By contrast, I’m So Numb is a cranked up swaggering alt-country rocker with a punchy riff. Likewise, The Killer, a particular standout, offers a moody desert-atmosphere steeped in a stew of blues and traditional folk, a Southern gothic murder ballad, ripped midway by an electric guitar maelstrom.
He closes in contemplative mood with the rippling fingerpicked, violin and cello led melody of Long Lost Son, another number through which the spine of English folk can be clearly heard as its ends on drum roll, cymbals crash and feedback. A place marker in the debut albums of the year list has been duly assigned.
Out Now. Order Arizona via daveburn.com