Album Review – The Burner Band’s “Signs and Wonders”

What a fun little record this is, perfect for putting on repeat, or spinning in just about any scenario. Hearkening back to the Sun Records era when you could label most anything country, rock n’ roll, or rockabilly depending on who was singing, Signs and Wonders takes inspiration from the Million Dollar Quartet session, infuses it with just a little bit of a punk attitude and maybe even a dash of bluegrass, and fleshes it all out with more modern lyrics.

The Burner Band may sound like a collective from Memphis, or Nashville, or Austin, but primary members Lewis Burner (guitar) and Ian Blackburn (bass) happen to make their beds in Leeds, England, though you’d never guess it from listening to this record. Studied and astute, they remind you a lot of The Stray Cats or Everly Brothers, or maybe more modern acts like JD McPherson or The Cactus Blossoms. Nothing was lost in the cross-Atlantic transfer with these cats.

The opening song “Blues Came In” will give you all those good Buddy Holly vibes, while the harmony vocals and simple melodies makes these short songs like little time portals to the late 50’s. If the throwback sound suits you just fine but you’re worried there may not enough twang for your country-loving heart, The Burner Band brought some really excellent steel guitar into these sessions as well, and by adding a little harmonica and banjo on a few songs, it passes as a country record too.

Signs and Wonders is country, and old school rock ‘n roll. It’s music from a time when folks didn’t get hung up on labels, only if something was good or not. The challenge for a record like this is making it all feel seamless, and that’s what these Brits accomplish. It doesn’t sound like a goulash of disparate influences. It sounds like music from an era when popular music didn’t suck. You can try to meticulously explain how so much of popular American music sprang from the same rhythm and blues influences, or you can put on a record like this where it’s illustrated so well.

And though these songs are quick and catchy, the lyricism wasn’t just an afterthought. Some of the wording is fairly standard for the style of music, but other songs go much deeper, whether it’s the banishment of tabloid newspaper The Sun from Liverpool in “Block Out the Sun,” or “Search Deep, Find Out,” which takes a bit of Eastern mysticism and incorporates it into a rockabilly tune that sounds like Luther Perkins could playing lead guitar.

Lewis Burner has been known to open shows and help arrange dates when underground artists from The States roll through the region, and has released two solo records in his own right. But the chemistry he’s found with The Burner Band just might be what pushes his music to beyond the British Isles. A few of the Yankees and rednecks stateside could learn something from the congealing of timeless influences into something with evergreen appeal like Signs and Wonders.

If you’re looking for something easy to enjoy and hard to pause—not overthought, but not mindless entertainment either—The Burner Band and Signs and Wonders just might hit the spot.

8/10

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Signs and Wonders can be ordered on vinyl from Shed Load Records

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