Earning his first clicks among these pages as part of our Faces of 2014 feature Joshua Burnside has capitalised on that early promise distilling every last drop of his growth as an artist into new record EPHRATA. Known for well-constructed songs usually based in or loosely around traditional folk structures EPHRATA demonstrates a shift in Burnside’s process. On this record, production values stand firmly centre stage with the songs adding a new more dynamic dimension. Studio manipulation has helped morph some of the songs into something less straight forward than your average folk song, dragging them into places they wouldn’t have otherwise gone, often straddling several genres within a single song.
The second track on the record is ‘Tunnels Pt.2’, a slickly produced full band effort punctuated with frantic drum fills, slashed with stabbing guitar strokes reminiscent of…well The Strokes actually. ‘Tunnels Pt. 1’ surfaces as the sixth cut on the record. Obviously, it’s a precursor to the sequel but as a stand-alone piece it seems limp, all build up and no pay off. Putting the whole piece together in order as one track would have provided a really special centre piece for the record, ‘..Pt.2’ is an excellent track as it is but you can’t help thinking what may have been.
‘26th Street’ is a highlight, a signal of just how far Burnside has come. A kind of hip-hop/folk cross over, having just typed that phrase I’m fully aware it suggests scant quality but it actually works really well without being even the least bit Ed Sheeran-y. Strain if you will to imagine one of Conor Oberst’s finest put through the Dr. Dre production ringer with added marching band drums and you’re actually quite close. ‘Fightorfight’ sounds like a full drunk Ennio Morricone lurching round a kebab shop at midnight, galvanised by suitably aggressive indignation. That’s got to be worth seeing…or hearing as the case may be.
Overall EPHRATA is an extremely accomplished record, Burnside’s vocals lead the songs with a vulnerability emboldened by defiant strength. An excellent offering from a rapidly developing talent.