Joshua Burnside's 'Into the Depths of Hell' is 'a fantastic collection of dizzying musical twists and turns'
Into the Depths of Hell by Joshua Burnside
To label, or even confine, this album to the folk genre would we doing it a grave disservice and maybe even dissuade certain sections of the music-loving public from giving it a listen.
Yes, there's fantastic genre-bending outfits such as the legendary Levellers, Billy Bragg and the more recent Ferocious Dog putting their own spin on folk, but many assume it gentle, quiet parochial, thus giving it a wide berth.
That's not to say folk fans won't love this fantastic collection of songs from Northern Irish artist Joshua Burnside... but this 45 minutes of dizzying musical twists and turns deserves as large an audience as possible.
Experimental folk, I suppose you could call it, as Burnside mixes alternative sounds and Irish folk with South American rhythms and Eastern European influences to produce a unique and beautiful sound.
Recording during Covid-19 lockdown in his Belfast studio, Burnside used post punk and electronic recording methods to push the boundaries of this record, re-released after originally being put out in September 2020.
Right from the album's start – the haunting, brooding 'I Saw The Night' you know you're in for something different, with the driving monotone of lyrics and music acting as a stepping stone to the wonders to follow.
'Under The Concrete' is almost tribal as Burnside takes on on a quiet but powerful chorus that you can imagine a gathering of hundreds singing along with.
But the highlight for me is track eight, the anthemic 'War on Everything'. It starts like it means business, with thumping drums and driving electric guitars and just grows from there. This mammoth song of lost love and breaking hearts has the album's best lyrics too.
Album closer 'Nothing For Ye' is another cracker, the kind of gem you expect to find on a 1980s Pogues 12 inch release - Irish instrumentation taking us through a tale of a man who has left his 'sweet darling' without food, heat or money after spending all his cash 'on taxis and cigarettes and drinks at the bar'. In the finest of folk traditions, however, he would buy her a ring if finances allowed.
'Will You Go Or Must I?' is simply wonderful. A piano-driven, slow burning ditty which highlights Burnside's beautiful voice, deft lyrics and humour too.
By far the longest of the 10 tracks is slow burning, almost conversational 'Driving Alone In The City', the kind of story telling that reminds me of early 1970s Bruce Springsteen and contains the evocative lyric: 'He was found in the morning, under the white land, a half-pint of Guinness frozen to his hand, naked and soulless,half-naked and soulless'.
A more traditional song is the beautiful 'Noa Mercier', a track about the lover of a legendary giant from County Down. And what's a (Northern) Irish folk album without an ode to the mountain dew? 'Whiskey, whiskey' is a beautiful strumming guitar piece with the lovely lyric 'I'll sip my whiskey, I ain't gonna die sober'.
There's not a dud track on this album and I've only mentioned 'And You Evade Him', with its eastern rythyms and chants, and interlude-like 'Napoleans Nose' last as they're just not quiet as great as the other eight tracks!
By Jeremy Ransome