Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Shawl (performed by Doug Burr)

Release Date: 12/9/2008 (iTunes)
Street Date : 1/2009 (physical CD)
Label: Velvet Blue Music

Plugged was one of the first to review Doug Burr's critically acclaimed On Promenade in 2007 and adamantly predicted its success. Burr's heartfelt lyrics, twang-infused folk sensibilities, and somber melodies immediately won him a place in the hearts of those who enjoy Johnny Cash, Dylan, and Wilco.

While not touted as the official follow-up to On Promenade, The Shawl is a project consisting of 9 songs with lyrics lifted from the book of Psalms. Doug Burr is unafraid to push the envelope when it comes to the delicate mix of religion, music, and art. He proves it here by crafting a powerful collection of songs that marries his "grass-roots" musical style to the honesty and transparency of the Psalms. It's a perfect marriage.

Doug's vocals are the most striking aspect of the songs; they are brimming with emotion and purpose, commanding your attention. Musically, this project is noticeably more mellow and low-key as if the focus was intended to be more on the message and not the tune. The arrangements are simply consisting of sparse guitar strumming, very intermittent percussion, and perhaps a sound effect here and there. The words and voice are absolutely the driving force behind The Shawl and I'm sure that's not by accident.

The songs were recorded in Tehuacana, TX in the Texas Hall, built in 1860’s, and is in pretty bad condition but still standing. I'm guessing we get a glimpse of its interior via the cover art.

Such an honest album deserves an equally honest appraisal from me. I'm sure there will be those who will be turned off by the fact that the lyrics are essentially Bible verses describing how the Lord is king, Israel is favored, judgment is coming, the wicked will be repaid, and salvation is coming for the righteous. Typically, these sentiments are not near and dear to the hearts and minds of Atheists and secular-progressives.

All that aside, those who are believers or at least have open minds will enjoy this record for exactly what it is - a brilliantly arranged collection of songs performed by an artist who clearly believes in what he's singing. It's a refreshing thing to hear in these tumultuous and mediocre times in which we live.

~ John Masci


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