Joshua Burnell – Flowers Where the Horses Sleep

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Allan Wilkinson

York-based Joshua Burnell’s career gathers momentum with this latest self-penned collection of songs.  Already established as an extraordinary live act with his six-piece band, the singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is proving himself a major player on the current folk and acoustic music scene and these ten songs are testament to that.  There’s shades of Jim Moray and Seth Lakeman here and there, but Burnell is by and large making his own mark in pursuit of his own particular niche on the music scene, even to the extent of assuming a similar role to that of Cabaret’s Joel Grey on “Let Me Fall Down”, where Burnell takes an opportunity to bring a little burlesque to the fore, a throwback to the seedy Kit Kat Club scene of the 1930s.

With a title influenced by the ordeals of Japanese-American interns during WW2, who were forced to live in stables and who grew flowers to make their ordeal more bearable, Flowers Where the Horses Sleep takes on a richly poetic relevance. Nowhere on the album do we find any ‘fillers’, as each song is treated to a sumptuous arrangement and with first rate performances.  If “Le Fay” demonstrates the full power of Burnell’s musical artillery, together with guest contributions courtesy of Nathan Greaves, Kathleen Ord and Tom Mason, then the relatively sparse “Run With Me” shows the flip side of Burnell’s musical prowess, with a gentle collaboration, featuring a guest vocal from Frances Sladen, along with Katriona Gilmore’s empathetic fiddle.  The song is also depicted in the cover artwork, a papercut by Hari and Deepti, a Mumbai husband and wife team, which shows a definite symbiotic visual art/music relationship, as does Elly Lucas’s now trademark body art photography.  Outstanding.     

Choice Track: Labels (NSV 508)