Throw the labels away. Joshua Burnell takes his folk-fused baroque and roll down new pathways on Flowers Where The Horses Sleep. Exploring humankind’s ability to find beauty even in the most challenging of times, it’s a light that burns bright in the darkness.
Release Date: 4th September 2020
Label: Misted Valley Records
Formats: CD / DL
We’ve followed the journey of Joshua Burnell through his diversion Into The Green and via The Road To Horn Fair (not to forget his Songs From The Seasons project) so it’s grand to plot the development. He’s a young chap of multi-instrumental ability. The new album sees him on masses of instruments and various programming and supplemented by a handful of guest musicians.
Add to that an immediately pleasing vocal that brings to mind the easy style, tones and phrasing of Blair Dunlop and Jim Moray. Then mix in regular compadre, Frances Sladen who takes lead on Le Fay and Invisible Wings and you have a combination that’s going to provide nothing less than a pleasant experience.
Ringing acoustic guitars introduce what really is more than his description of “folk songs for a modern audience.” Flowers Where The Horses Sleep seems to offer much more in terms of mainstream, dare we say commercial, appeal. A mythical character gets a contemporary dressing on Le Fay, a track sounding like he’s been listening to to the alternative rock of Flight Brigade with its vocal chants and drive. Arthurian legend crosses swords with contemporary folk rock.
Let Me Fall Down is built on musical drama with some gypsy fiddle adding to a burlesque theatricality. However, of the contemporary numbers, the gorgeously uplifting piano ballad Two Stars brings the album to a warm close. The Burnell Steinway skill adding a classy sheen.
Of course, there’s no denying or ignoring the folk roots. The Ballad Of Mark Jeffrey, the 19th Century “burglar, boxer and general rapscallion” is a tale surely someone should have picked up on before. Given a Trials Of Cato/Lakeman-like arrangement and just missing a fiddle, it’s the perfect partner to what he calls “my latest attempt at writing a pastiche on the traditional English folk song.” Joan Of The Greenwood relies on archetypal characters and even an archetypal arrangement, melodeon driven with guitar that might have its roots in the distinctive Carthy style.
Again, beautifully presented with a papercut effect cover depicting an image from the lovely Run With Me, you can safely judge this album by its cover(we’ll pass on the rather questionable face-painting). A really warming and pleasant record that merges twenty-first century pop and folk sensibilities.
Listen to Le Fay here: