You may have never heard of Sean Burns, or maybe the only Sean Burns who’ve ever heard of was that annoying guy back in high school with bad acne. Well this isn’t him. This Sean Burns might be the most important person in the entire nation of Canada when it comes to the preservation of traditional country music.
You could consider him like the Marty Stuart, Dale Watson, Ralph Peer, and John Lomax of Canada all wrapped into one. Oh, and he’s the newest member of Corb Lund’s Hurtin’ Albertains on bass as well. Sean Burns is a DJ, a historian, a side player, but most importantly for our discussion here, Sean Burns is a solo performer who specializes in finding some of the best songs in country music from Canada and beyond, and breathing new life into them.
Mr. Burns has been on the radar of Saving Country Music for a while now, but it’s been difficult to know exactly what to do with him since his music isn’t exactly “original” as much as it’s interpretations of other people’s songs. He’s got a great catalog nonetheless, including a 7-song album called A Bakersfield Half Dozen, and another album of truckin’ songs called We Gotta Lotta Truckin’ To Do.
But his new album Lost Country might as well be entirely original, because it’s full of songs you’ve likely never heard unless just like Sean Burns, you have you’re nose to the ground sniffing out the best underrated country songs and artists in Canada’s past. Lost Country is a collection of songs Sean Burns uncovered that epitomize the best of traditional country music from Canada, or really anywhere else.
The writers of these songs might be varied, but the album comes across cohesively in how the songs all embody the best of heartbreak and honky tonk country music, and how Sean Burns uses them to celebrate the art form. The album is also meant to be like a gateway for listeners to discover some of these artists such as Chef Adams, Mickey McGivern, Scotty Campbell, and Harold MacIntyre.
Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Sean Burns would do his part in keeping the legacies of these guys and others alive on his radio show called Boots & Saddle on CKUW 95.9 FM from 2016 until earlier this year when he started touring with Corb Lund. Sean Burns has also toured as a solo artist since 2010, doing what he can to keep the true sound of country alive in the the bars and honky tonks of central and western Canada, and beyond.
But perhaps what makes you most happy to have found Lost Country is the musical accompaniment from the Lost Country band. The lead guitar and pedal steel on this album is absolutely lights out, flawless, and perfectly catered to the ’50s-’60s era that the album looks to capture. This includes guitarist Grant Siemens whose been playing with Corb Lund for nearly 20 years, and Mike Weber on steel guitar. The legendary Redd Volkaert appears on a couple of tracks to positive results as well.
The singing of Sean Burns has little glimmers of the Sun Records era in music, with inflections that are just as much rockabilly as country. On Lost Country, sometimes it sounds like he’s trying to mimic the original artists more than deliver the song in his more natural voice, and this could get distracting. But no matter what or who he is singing, the passion for the song and country music comes through.
Being a country traditionalist from Canada means Sean Burns runs the same risk as the heroes he toasts on this album of being overlooked by history. But as Lost Country proves, this is where the spotlight in country music should be.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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Purchase Lost Country on Bandcamp