The album On Promenade made songwriter Doug Burr a fixture of the North Texas music scene and cracked the door for him nationally. Last week was the 10th anniversary of its release.
“I remember buying three copies from him at a Belmont Hotel show he played just so I could give a couple away to friends,” says Johnny Beauford of Dallas bands Jack Kerowax and Bravo Max.
On Promenade has become canon for emerging and established local songwriters. However, its initial concept was much different than the final product, which was nominated for multiple Dallas Observer Music Awards in 2007.
“It was almost an EP because of budget,” Burr says. “But Britton Beisenherz [On Promenade's producer] believed in the songs enough and just said, ‘Why are you making an EP if you have the songs? Let’s make the record, and you can just pay me whatever you can.’”
After a few recording sessions, it was clear they were on to something. “We began to sense we were making something bigger than ourselves,” Burr says.
In less than 45 minutes, the album shows you a songwriter finding himself.
“I read a book called Mystery Train by Greil Marcus,” Burr says. “It helped me start thinking a little differently about music, why it was important and where I fit into the pantheon of American music as a boy from the South. I started to trust myself as a set of spiritual eyes watching the world unfold in violence and beauty.”
What materialized was a collection of 11 songs soaked in Southern beauty and folk traditions. The album opened with "Slow Southern Home" which, as the title suggests, slow burns to the stratosphere with Burr eventually doubling his vocals in a high harmony and then trails off with a wailing harmonica.
Another standout track and fan favorite on the A-side of the album is "Graniteville." Burr weaves a tale of small-town slowness suddenly disturbed by a runaway train. The beats per minute increase effortlessly, creating a sense of panic and anxiety that suddenly ends with screeching violins as the train crashes.
The album closes with the beautiful "Blood Runs Downhill," in which we hear Burr’s vocals reach a heartbreaking crescendo as he repeats, “Everything is fallin'.”
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Ten years later, the album's impact is clear. Dallas troubadour Jacob Metcalf considers On Promenade and Burr’s catalog as his “gateway to a whole world of North Texas gold.”
“On Promenade is a magnificent, inspired work of art and the best of his entire catalog by a nose," Metcalf says. "Doug’s never made an unexceptional album, but this one in particular would be my pick for the collection that must survive the apocalypse."
Daniel Bowman of the Dallas band The Fox and the Bird agrees, “On Promenade is an incredibly dynamic, honest album that balances the past with the future. Over the years, it has helped me mourn things lost, celebrate the present and hope of unexpected things to come.”
Burr still has a special place in his heart for On Promenade. “I’ve wanted to be a songwriter since I was at least 16,” Burr says. “And that was the record where I felt like I had finally fulfilled that dream — even if nothing else happened for me for the rest of my life.”