Understated and exaggerated, foreign yet somehow familiar, Joshua Burnside’s ‘If You’re Going That Way’ is both thought-provoking and reflective. The Northern Irish musician plays with a number of ideas on this five track EP and his talent is clear from the opening song. Burnside manages to touch on many of his influences, both musically and lyrically, from Bright Eyes to Bob Dylan, without mimicking their sound or relying too heavily on their ideas.
Throughout the EP, Burnside is constantly keeping the listener on their toes. Desert Wine sees him somehow manage to pack the tiny track with a huge amount of diversity. He brings it from a typical melancholy take on folk music into a heavier, more accessible song without losing its original roots. This is achieved with no little help from his cutting vocal, whilst all the while clutching at modernity by a continuous electronic coolness. Before you know it, it has led perfectly into the second track, Black Dog Sin. Here, shrieking violins at the tracks entry, thumping guitar, and hand claps all emphasis the nature of Burnside’s intent to dismantle rather than to create. This is exactly what he does throughout the EP. By using snippets of a genre that is familiar to most he creates a sense of familiarity, before sweeping the carpet from under our feet with an unexpected shout or change in texture.
Little Blind changes the mood again with the piano adding new warmth to the music. The banjo allows for a nod at some of Burnside’s musical influences but is sparse enough to deter any comparison. A confident use of silence impresses before a heavier guitar changes the atmosphere again, just as we were warming to the sound, although this seems to work. Autumn 1973 is less impressive. Like the opening track this is very short, and appears almost like a side note. The song would work on a full album but it distracts from the rest of this EP. The listener’s train of thought is restored for the closing track, Half Homes, where Burnside is back on form with a strong instrumental interlude.
‘If Your Going That Way’ is choppy in places, yet it’s difficult to advise continuity when the lack of such is what makes Burnside’s self-professed experimental folk so exciting. He may have a good grasp of his craft but it needs to be perfected, or at least given one final push if he is to succeed. Still, Burnside has achieved a lot here and his work is definitely worth attention.