Professor Burns & The Lilac Field - “Ghosts Be Free”

Sunday, 24 February 2013
Maurice Hope

Professor Burns & The Lilac Field “Ghosts Be Free”

Independent, 2013

  • Professor Burns is a descriptive Indie folk blues roots singer-songwriter, steeped in shrewd observations of life

California native, Professor Burns (Sean) leans heavily on the art side of singer-songwriting as he weaves together a tapestry of material that speaks of ‘what we are’ (“All This Disbelief”), a story told to him by his grandmother about “Crescent County Faire”. Plus “Rainbow At Midnight” which as ever has Burns end up spinning rich in detailed imagery. Burns' roots go way back, as far as Alan Lomax's field recordings of work songs of the 1930s from Mississippi State Penitentiaries from black prisoners of the chain gangs — traces of this can be heard on the strong opening track, “Little John”.

Juggling between idioms a little, “The Rock” with trumpet in the mix and gentle percussion it leans more to jazz than any other; as does a shuffling, upright bass aided “Ray Of Light”. Interesting and effective! “Birds” is more pop folk as he brings into play a near calypso beat. As a infectious supply of guitar, harmony vocals and lyrics match are provided. On changing his focus, he delivers the Ray Montague-ish sounding “I Ride Away”. It could well be his best and most convincing piece as he speaks of finding his way, and how ‘drums’ are a sound he likes as he travels through the night. As with the help of firelight there are numerous things attributed to Burns’ imaginative mind. Given its drive and feel good nuance Professor Burns and friends (his band, The Lilac Field is one of those that changes personnel as and when people are available) strike a high of great magnitude here. So high I challenge you to resist pressing replay once heard!

Burns’ style is on occasions a little off-kilter, but not overtly so. Not unlike Sam Baker in fact (as on “Crescent County Faire”) and musically too on “Wood And Peg” as the presentation is stripped down and the lyrics are spewed out with deft twists and jolts. Fascinating stuff, and likely as not he is a great live. Of a darker side, “Hollowed” produces a mystical edge as he speaks of night skies, shadows and of him being on his knees. Funky. Going right to the end, for there are no fill-in tracks just more of him prising open boundaries as innovative create contrasting styles are crafted. On the instrumental front he uses electric, acoustic, pedal steel and bass guitar, accordion, keyboards, cello, percussion, brass, keyboards, vibraphone, congas and Tres too. Never cluttered, just enough. Burns who recently wrote his first book is one interesting musician, and writer and someone who’s work seeps deep into one’s soul big time.

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