The Duke of York bar in Belfast was filled to capacity on a Sunday night to witness the launch of Joshua Burnside’s debut album “EPHRATA”.
Described in his bio as an experimental folk songwriter, the album was written mainly while he was in South America last year and he is ultimately impossible to pigeon-hole as his music moves its way on a journey from raw and edgy to soft and gentle with the unmistakable vocal talent of both Joshua and his trusted companion Alana Henderson, providing striking backing vocals on a number of tracks. Joshua has been through a lot of hardship in his short years and every single song is an outpouring of emotion that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The album weighs in at around 35 minutes long but gives you 10 tracks of brilliance that you will not tire of.
Support on the evening comes in the form of Alana Henderson who has collaborated extensively with Joshua throughout his musical career when she is not away touring as part of Irish singer-songwriter Hozier’s backing band. Her credentials as a musician are undoubted and, with just a Cello and a drummer with snare drum as accompaniment, she delivers a beautiful performance interspersed with a touch of edginess that makes the paying public glad that they made the wise choice to come early to the venue.
There are songs about mind games, karma, focusing on the past and pain but throughout the voice is pure beauty. Wax & Wane, Bizantine Blues and Deep Blue Sea just scratch the surface of the fabulous musician who will no doubt continue to impress with her well-crafted tunes.
When Joshua Burnside steps onto the stage, his first song is delivered in its rawest form. Blood Drive is one of the lead tracks from the new album and he stands in the shadows at the front of the brightly lit stage with an acoustic guitar, no microphone, no band and as hush descends across the bar he sings quietly but confidently from the heart. As an aside it’s worth going and having a listen to the version of this track that has been remixed by the wonderful Ryan Vail. The rest of the evening proves not to be so quiet.
It’s a full band with brass section for Little Bird which swings from a hint of Americana to folk to piano to a big guitar-fuelled finale and the sound with the full band is huge. It is in reality a song that is all over the place but you know, it works perfectly, especially in this live setting.
Hollllogram sees Joshua sing again with Alana Henderson and her vocals perfectly compliment his. Red and White Blues is maybe the obligatory song for a Northern Ireland artist to sing about growing up in this land, where we are supposed to live in peace and tolerance even though maybe we don’t.
It’s a much varied and inquisitive album with the live versions for me always having a fuller sound and, let’s be honest, who writes songs these days at one minute and twenty six seconds of the like of Concubine. No one does and that, I suppose, is the beauty of Joshua Burnside. He is never going to conform to the norm and that is what makes his music just so edgy and always sounds new no matter how often you listen to it.
All I can say is this live show was a great showcase for this fabulous album and I recommend you make a point of firstly buying the debut album and, secondly, going to see Joshua Burnside in the flesh.
Joshua Burnside will play at Ursa Minor in Ballycastle on Saturday 13th May and at Craft Village in Derry on the 27th May.