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

I don’t know much about music – I know that’s a strange way to start a review. But I don’t. I am an avid listener, a dedicated dancer and a shower singer. I will happily and indiscriminately switch from Taylor Swift to David Bowie to Bright Eyes. I like to think of my ears as a great leveller.

And when I say I don’t know much about music, I mean that even though I feel like I should, I can’t make clever comparisons between Joshua Burnside’s ‘Wear Bluebells In Your Hat If You’re Goin That Way’ and obscure Northern Irish folk singers of days gone by. I could hazard a guess but I don’t know for certain which poets might have influenced his work. If you’re interested in an analysis of key changes or chord progressions, I suggest you look for a different review.

What I can tell you, is how listening to this music made me feel.

When I listened through the ten songs, I imagined myself on a road trip. My battered car packed up, the promise of the ocean ahead, things I’m running from or towards. Overwhelmingly, I felt nostalgic. For both times and places that I know and ones that I don’t. I’m not quite sure how he managed to get that tug between past and present just right. It’s awfully clever.

Little Blind starts things off and it is a song in three acts – a regret-filled start that leads to peppy piano and ends with something that feels more like rock than folk. It’s almost like every third is recalling what came before it but adding its own twist. A sense of remembering in the melody as well as in the lyrics.

Later on, in August 1973, Burnside talks of trying to hold the summer hostage and I ache for it to be the height of the adventure season; long for evenings spent by burning embers and dark star speckled skies.

And remembering comes again in Drive In Another Time, where the singer does the impossible and makes the retelling of what feels like a half memory, half dream into a captivating rather than tedious experience. You should buy the album for that triumph alone.

It is a collection littered with good storytelling and poetic phrases that deserve attention and although you’d call him a folk singer if pushed for a description, I’m not sure he’d like that box very much. In Desert Wine he sings ‘where I’m going I won’t be confined’ and when I listened to the almost carnivalesque mania of Black Dog Sin in contrast to the Beirut-like feel of Half Homes, I felt like he’d got to that point of non-confinement already. A singer resisting definition and one who is very much worth your time.

The album is a reissue of Burnside’s 2013 release, If You’re Goin That Way. The 2019 version comes with four new songs and an acoustic version of Desert Wine.

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Sara Royle

Former newspaper journalist who has started dabbling in radio. Just returned to Manchester after a stint away in the wilds of Cumbria and hoping to use this reviewing lark as a way to find some of the best music that this lovely city has to offer and meet some creative folks along the way. Find me on Twitter @callmesara