Saturday, July 8, 2017

Aaron Burdett: "Refuge" (2017) CD Review

If you're looking for some well-written and engaging new folk music, you should check out Refuge, the latest album from Aaron Burdett, a singer and songwriter based in North Carolina. All of the songs on this disc were written by Aaron Burdett, and they feature some excellent lyrics. Joining him on this album are Jeff Hinkle on bass, James Kylen on drums, Jackson Dulaney on lap and pedal steel and David Johnson on fiddle. There are also some guest musicians on certain tracks.

Aaron Burdett kicks off the CD with "Pennies On The Tracks," a song tackling those perennial folks subjects - trains, working men, death. Aaron's is a trustworthy voice spinning a good tale, delivering it without unnecessary adornment. Check out these lines: "Mind your job, boys, and take your work to heart/One wrong move and we'll all be torn apart/There's no room for error, sure death for mistakes/If pride in your work won't guide you, let the fear of God today." The song builds in intensity, until it gives way to a wonderful instrumental section halfway through. I love David Johnson's work on fiddle. That instrumental section deftly divides the song into two connected parts, the second having a more personal feel.

That's followed by "It's A Living," which has a fuller, happier country sound, and is about working an office job one is not passionate about. "There's a paycheck at the end of the week/It seems a little smaller every time to me." No kidding! "After all this time, if I was gone two weeks, they'd forget I was ever here/It's good to have the bills paid/But it's a precious trade/Spending half of my time at something I don't like to pay for the half I do/But it's a living." We can all relate to this, though some of us work more than half our time. "And this office job, it ain't too hard/Easy on the back, but hard on the heart."  But as I mentioned, this song does have an upbeat sound, and it seems to urge us to maintain a positive attitude and live our lives to the fullest whenever and however we can. Joining Aaron Burdett on this track are Tim Surrett on rhythm guitar and Jeff Collins on piano.

Aaron Burdett then returns to a nice folk vibe with "Looking For Light," one of my personal favorites. There is some impressive guitar work on this track, with Jackson Dulaney playing the second acoustic guitar. However, the focus is the vocals, the lyrics. Check out these lines: "Let the pain pass/We're left with the scars we all have/The signs of a well-lived life." And these lines feel especially relevant and important these days: "But lies from the talking heads repeating what the TV said/Can fill the day with fears that have no bearing on me/In the end, nothing's as bad as it seems when first brought to light." Yes, ultimately this is a positive song. Then in "Last Refuge," he sings, "We all need a place to hide/A quiet room off to the side/Let the party rage on while you pass right through."

Another of my favorites is "A Couple Broken Windows," with its sweet folk vibes. "Giving up ain't the same as giving in/And living rough ain't a sin/Choices made in the heat of yesterday/They add up to the shape I'm in/The add up the to world I'm living in." There is some wisdom and experience in his voice, but enough youth to provide the song and listener with hope. You know? But perhaps the best song of the album is "Thieves And Charlatans." It is so honest, so beautiful, so vulnerable and strong simultaneously. This song features more good work by David Johnson on fiddle. "And I've spent some time with thieves and charlatans, it's true/And I can't promise all those days are through/But I can say with full conviction and the road ahead in view/I'll do anything it takes to stand next to you." This is an excellent song, a song of both maturity and excitement. The CD then concludes with "Wolves At The Door," with Aaron Burdett's vocals reminding me a bit of Van Morrison. And by the end he's howling like Warren Zevon. Jason Webb plays organ on this track.

CD Track List
  1. Pennies On The Tracks
  2. It's A Living
  3. Looking For Light
  4. Last Refuge
  5. Rock And Roll
  6. Another Nail In The Coffin
  7. A Couple Broken Windows
  8. Poor Man
  9. Thieves And Charlatans
  10. Wolves At The Door
Refuge was released on May 12, 2017 on Organic Records.

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