Danny Burns’ third solo release Promised Land is set to be the best work yet on the back of songs such as “Someone Like You”. Covering Adele might be a surprise for listeners, she’s certainly a far cry from what I would call standard bluegrass or Americana fare but Burns sounds completely unconcerned about what we think. More power to him because this new single is an important work for Burns, one that shows him alert to the form’s possibilities but as ever, thoroughly versed in its traditions.
The Irish singer-songwriter assembles a high caliber cadre of roots music masters to deliver the track. Burns’ artful orchestration of fiddle, upright bass, guitar, banjo, and mandolin into a smooth yet authentic amble, lightly layered but never too busy, is worth the price of purchase alone. The banjo, fiddle, and mandolin, in particular, sustain an ongoing musical dialogue that enhances and co-exists with the vocal.
Listeners may hear scattered hints of Burns’ Irish roots in the vocal. He has a voice more than capable of packing the song on his back, but musical guest Tim O’Brien pairs up with him for the vocals. He punctuates several lines rather than shadowing Burns throughout the song and the distinct tone of his vocal cords gives the song an unexpected turn it wouldn’t otherwise have. It’s a sign of the quality of its lyrics that Burns pays such obvious attention to their delivery, though he’s never overwrought.
His first two releases, North Country and the EP Hurricane, set the table for him well for a major third release catapulting into the genre’s upper echelon. “Someone Like You” bodes well that Promised Land has the sort of elements. He has that rare trait where his music sounds so relaxed and effortless that it has an off the cuff vibe, but experienced listeners know better. The best can make it sound easy.
It doesn’t mean that the song’s light or facile. Adele’s songs are classic pop in the sense they favor a conversational style in their lyrics and “Someone Like You” is no different. It doesn’t aspire to be Dylanesque poetry in song. It is, however, an intelligent piece of writing that gets its message across in clear and concise fashion. The song’s production frames the vocals in such a way that the words achieve a meaningful degree of prominence,, though they are never the focus.
I believe “Someone Like You” is one of the best examples in recent memory why genre and style distinctions are often meaningless. Pop music rarely recasts its crown jewels for public consumption, I can recall Eric Clapton’s stunning rearrangement of “Layla” off the top of my head, but Danny Burns doesn’t show any difficult shaping Adele’s song to fit his style. It makes for one of 2022’s best singles. It works well as either a standalone song or as part of the Promised Land release, though I’m sure it adds a lot to that EP. Don’t miss out on this one.
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