The Burns Sisters,
Out of the Blue
(Rounder, 2000)

The Burns Sisters were proclaimed to me to be a powerful mix of country, folk and pop, with unusual harmonies and a wealth of songs that would leave me so inspired that, were I driving, I'd have to pull off the side of the road. This introduction, from the album's liner notes, made me a bit skeptical, but I can report that while I wasn't struck with awe, I was duly impressed by the quality of voice, the intelligence of lyrics and the variety of feelings touched on in Out of the Blue.

A part of the breadth no doubt comes from the fact that the Burns Sisters are in fact three sisters who pass the lead vocal and lyricist hats around with impressive sensitivity to whose voice is appropriate for which song. It's both interesting and refreshing to see such an equal share of the proceedings between three artists, and the thematic and musical shifts the three sisters represent lend the album a continuing element of surprise as the listener isn't quite sure what to expect next.

Their music feels most like country, though they certainly break into folk and rock with abandon. The overall style reminds one of Bonnie Raitt and her ilk -- rocking guitars and strong, swinging lyrics. The album opener, "God Made Woman," is the first example of this style, though it is continued to various extents in the slow-burning swing rock "Bedrock" and the yearning "The One that Got Away."

The more contemplative side of the trio seems to fall with Marie Burns. Her songs of love unexpectedly found and abruptly lost are tender and, without great fanfare, heartrending, from the sad "I Love You Anyway" to the joyous "Out of the Blue."

To balance out the more sorrowful ballads there are some great, toe-tapping tunes. These songs are where the rock and country side appears most strongly. "Two Step Recipe" is the most whimsical and cheery, though the fun "Something Real" edges along those lines as well.

The final track, "Prayer of St. Francis," is the one noticeable departure, though a fitting track for the finish. The a cappella style and haunting melody leaves the listener with a strong final impression of the beauty of these three voices as well as an awareness of the intelligence and heart behind their music.

[ by Robin Brenner ]
Rambles: 25 June 2001



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