4 To Watch: Doug Burr

Music Features Doug Burr

Hometown: Denton, Texas
Fun fact: Burr wrote much of the material for his sophomore effort, On Promenade, after reading Greil Marcus’ Mystery Train, which he describes as the perfect companion for “dread and redemption.”
Why he’s worth watching: Burr was up for four Dallas Music Awards earlier this year.
For fans of: Will Oldham, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Mahalia Jackson

“I’ve always loved old fashioned phrases and wording. Especially in poetry and music.” Doug Burr, fresh in from pulling his two-year old son around their back yard in a wagon, is dissecting the bones of his exceptional sophomore release, On Promenade. “Not sure exactly where that came from. Maybe growing up on the old hymns.”

Burr speaks in a clipped Texas accent that belies the long, languid tones of his music. Exquisitely detailed, slow and deliberate, his songs have as much in common with the literature of Eudora Welty and Cormac McCarthy as with the work of the Americana dimmerati to whom he is often, and somewhat shortsightedly, compared.

The singer and songwriter set a very particular path for himself with the release of his debut, 2003’s The Sickle and the Sheaves, a conceptual gospel album created with immortality in mind. “I had a friend in the death-throes of cancer who identi?ed so thoroughly with one of the songs that he requested I sing it at his funeral,” Burr explains. “At that point, I realized I needed to record it for his and his family’s sake—for my sake.”

On Promenade elaborates on these themes of birth, death and renewal, beginning with the quietly vesperal “Slow Southern Home” before patiently building into the quickened heartbeat of “In the Garden.” The cycle ends with a trio of songs capped by the gorgeous “Blood Runs Downhill,” a eulogy for the rest of the album—it’s part gospel, part Alex Chilton at his most ethereal.

“I had a dream one night,” Burr says. “I was in a hearse with Johnny Cash, and June was in a cof?n in the back. He looked at me and said ‘Love is fear,’ the opposite of ‘Love casts out all fear’ from the Bible. But I immediately knew what that meant. The more you have, the more you will one day lose.”

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