Okay, so it’s been a little over two years since I fondly reviewed the debut album, Signs & Wonders, from Leeds’ alt-country come Americana outfit, The Burner Band, when I labelled it “foot-tapping bluegrass fun” with, unusually, added elements of punk. This new seven track album Age of the Liar takes a massive step forward in poignancy…..
This said, I cannot now recall how we became acquainted, but lucky for us we did. Because while, Age of the Liar kicks off pretty much where Signs & Wonders left us, and waits for no man with insatiable foot-tapping bluegrass, there’s an underlying notion intelligent prose is at work here, as the lyrics, concerning the unquestionable loyalty to militancy rides this track like a trooper.
If the opener came as no surprise to me, the second track, Living in Fear certainly did, as while continuing the Americana roots forefront, it rides an offbeat like reggae, lowering the tempo, and taking an ecological topic, a “state of the world today,” it’s akin to the subject matter of punk and reggae too.
The mechanics of Living in Fear is also a hint towards the title track seven tunes in, which positively beams back reggae’s influence over punk; if the Clash did Americana, this is what it would probably sound like. Greatly overlooked in today’s mainstream, the social and political commentary of the era, once a prominent feature in both punk and reggae is put on the line here, satirically mocking the ludicrously of misinformation and propaganda of right-wing leaders, be it Trump or Bojo, it could go either way.
Throughout the album the desperation of contemporary issues is a running theme, even if it best works with these two offbeat songs. Dark and Lonesome Street takes us back to what the Burners do best, still as the title suggests there’s darker undertones. Even if the immediately lovable Hot Dog King has a rockabilly swing, the carefree mood isn’t all it seems, relaying a true story of New York hot dog vendor Dan Rossi, who fought against unjust licencing laws.
I love this concept, that the Burner Band aren’t afraid to explore and break confines of subgenre and pigeonholing, and it blends pleasantly on the ear. There’s elements of early Springsteen on the Asbury Park scene, often breezing into soul and blues, but never straying from the country backbeat.
This is truly is a modern take on roots and Americana, at times the definitive article, twangy geetars, or referencing American culture, but teetering the edge, there’s so many nods to a British roots scene, the punk, rockabilly and reggae movements of the early eighties, even down to the three-minute hero ideal, no tune tries to rule the album, all staying at the statutory running time. If the debut album touched on these influences too, it was subtle at best, this time the balance is perfected.
Social commentary continues to cover prejudices, immigration, stereotyping disabilities, yet no matter how complex the subject, tracks like Big Hole don’t baffle you in riddles, the messages are simple and direct, creating a beguiling and enjoyable ride with poignancy. I’ve yet to dive deeper into this, but suspect as I do more backstory and hidden gems will jump out at me, but I’m overdue mentioning it, as it came out the end of March, so presenting it to now is a honour; great foot-stomping stuff with the perfect balance of contemporary thoughtful prose and subject matter; yee-ha, it’s a keeper!