Joshua Burnell – Glass Knight: Album Review

Joshua Burnell heads on an apocalyptic astral adventure. Messages carried in a set of appealing songs.

Release Date: 11th August 2023

Label: Bandcamp / Misted Vally Records MVR 23A

Format: digital / CD

Coinciding quite nicely with his appearance at Cropredy, the release of Glass Knight sounds like Joshua has evolved from the medieval minstrel into a fully-fledged space cadet, set for a Hawkwind-esque journey into the unknown. With the themes of climate change and the world of toxic technology at the core, it’s no wonder he’s off in search of pastures new as traditional folk tropes cross swords with sci-fi via a raft of musical influences.

Very future savvy, the credits, lyrics and more come via a QR code, and reveal a cast that includes a string sextet to complement the likes of guitarist Nathan Greaves and up and coming vocalist Frances Sladen who hove into view via the sonic textures and driving power chording of the Where Planets Collide prologue. Setting the scene by introducing the album’s main character and the technology theme, we’re launched on a more rocky than white knuckle ride where folk and fairy tales cross swords with a musical palette that swings, Burnell-style, between styles and genres. Hot money is on this as the opening song in the Cropredy set.

Declaring how he “can’t help but feel that nothing is real anymore,” the folk side is battered into submission by a rollicking number that segues smoothly into Out Of This World in total contrast to the intro. Saturated with the intimacy of a reflective passage, stark piano and distant acoustic guitar add to the celestial ambience. Switching between bright and breezy, Summery and vaguely retro even, and the contrast of calmer and introspective moments continues. Played My Part reveals what Joshua has noted as the prequel to Look At Me Now from his Flowers Where The Horses Sleep album; a pattering and rueful reflection on the climate change theme that picks up pace and passion.

The title track is a showcase for an ominous retelling of the well known fok tale of the Saffron Walden basilisk (J.K.Rowling take note). It finds Joshua at his most ‘Gabriel’ with a stomping and funky arrangement as the Glass Knight comes to the rescue in true Henry Cavill/The Witcher style. From a dark and bluesy opening, listen out for the twist in the tale and fingers crossed it will be another song that’s one of the first on the live set teamsheet for the upcoming tour.

Glossy and catchy pop rears its head with some nicely placed string parts and swells in the chorus on Don’t Lose Your Faith. Rim shots and funky guitar chops add to the reassuring lyric while Joshua heads back to the future with a part-spoken delivery with the narrative sway of Lucy (“cheeks carved from chalkstone and celery eyes“) that recalls the classic songwriting and phrasing of Dylan and Ian Hunter decorated with a dash of Hammond.

Our character concludes the journey on Moonlighter’s Child; not so much a resolution but onethat’s raised more questions than answers. There’s more than a hint of the Floyd in the stripped-back composition, primed for thoughtful rumination – you can easily imagine old Roger, his gruff melancholy knob turned up full, crooning lines such as: “was I just in the wrong place at the right time, in some twisted game.”

“The easy option is always to give up, ” says Joshua. “The hard option is always to struggle on into the unknown.” Glass Knight reveals an artist who’s chosen the latter option on an album with real depth – irresistible and sublime songs that offer thought-provoking pathways.

Festivals done, album released, Joshua is out on tour in October & November, here’s a taster of what he does:

Joshua Burnell online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Soundcloud / YouTube

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