Poised comfortably between gospel, country and folk, Doug Burr's newest full-length release, The Shawl, is a concept album of sorts, with all the lyrics directly taken from the Psalms. And though some might shy away from that overtly religious subject matter, it should be noted: Most of the Psalms Burr chose for the album aren't in the vein of your typical, sugary Christian lyrics. Instead, Burr guides listeners into some fairly dark corners of the human experience.
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Still, sonically, the record falls somewhere between 2003's The Sickle & the Sheaves and 2007's On Promenade. But that doesn't mean The Shawl should be considered a step backward for Burr—especially considering that most of the resplendent arrangements on the album were finished back in 2005.
In fact, it's quite the achievement: Even though the disc was recorded in a marathon 27-hour session on location at Texas Hall in Tehuacana, The Shawl doesn't feel rushed. Rather, it has a very dreamy, contemplative feel. Thanks to the natural reverb provided by the limestone walls of the hall and the guitar work of Deadman's Steven Collins, the album rambles along the same atmospheric, Lanois-esque soundscape as Emmylou Harris' Wrecking Ball and Bob Dylan's Oh Mercy.
It might not be On Promenade, but The Shawl is a welcome addition to the impressive Burr canon.
Catch Burr's CD release performance for The Shawl on Saturday, January 17, at Sons of Hermann Hall. Joining him on the bill are The Baptist Generals, Robert Gomez and Dust Congress.