According to Ursula BurnsUrsula Burns (RRR01)
Ruby Road Records
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
After schooling, Belfast singer/songwriter/harpist Ursula Burns traveled with the English-based Horse & Bamboo Theatre Company, touring Europe performing in masked plays. "In the summer we moved around with a horse and cart," says Burns. "We would walk twenty miles, set up camp and do a performance the next day. It was a very hard life, but I really liked it." Since that time, her 1998 European EP release Sinister Nips garnered nominations for Best Solo Female in the all-Ireland Hot Press Awards and Belfast Art Awards. She has toured in the UK, Ireland, and Scandinavia. Now in August 1999, her debut album According to Ursula Burns arrives in the US just in time for her first North American tour in fall 1999.
With a sound that is both traditional and contemporary, Burns' music defies classification. An example is the addictive Blueprint, which sounds like the music Tori Amos would make if she were given a harp, rather than a piano. Kisses in the Wind is reminiscent of Jane Sibbery's Summer Kisses, Winter Tears. In All is Gone, Burns' vocal stylings reminds one of Kate Bush. In Alcoholic Monster, the tune resembles a Jewish horah. But these comparisons do not do her justice. She is her own unique music stylist.
But it's not all sappy new-age pablum here. The mood of the album takes a turn for the shocking with the opening lyrics of When the Dust Settles: "All the little girls are sitting in the electric chair." The next song, Sinister Nips, is the finest on the album. Burns explores the unfaithfulness of her lover and her reaction to it:
|He whimpered with puppy dog eyes |
That it would never happen again.
But just like the cream on Saturday,
We could never prevent the rain.
I'm sorry. You're sorry.
No, I'm more sorry than you.
It's a mysterious dance that leads us astray;
It's the strength to pick up, having courage to throw away.
It's the sinister nips between vaguely told whispers.
Do you love her?
Of course you do.
The sound quality of According to Ursula Burns is above average. The review copy I received came with no cover art or liner notes. Hopefully the lyrics will be added for the US release for, at times, her vocals blended into the instrumentation a bit too much. The production is sparse, but ethereal. This is music and lyrics to pay close attention to, not for dancing. Burns has taken the tradition of the Irish harp and ballad and reinterpreted them in the modern style. The result is a fine collection that will be a treat for those looking for some new music from an upcoming female singer/songwriter.
Edited by David N. Pyles (firstname.lastname@example.org)