Spencer Burton – [Album]

Spencer Burton – [Album]

Saturday, 27 February 2021
‘Things I Can’t Do” from Coyote by Spencer Burton.

Spencer Burton
(Still Records/Dine Alone)
I confess that I was not paying complete attention to the music initially, the first time I threw Coyote on to review it. I figured it would be easy; I put it on and started washing dishes – but I didn’t actually get any dishes washed. In fact, before the second song on the album, “Memories We Won’t Soon Forget” had finished playing, I had stopped moving completely – even that early, all I could do (all I wanted to do) was listen. Even that early, I found my mind running through every image of Spencer Burton and every note I could remember hearing on the albums to which he’d contributed – as a guitarist in a Rose City hardcore band first, then in Attack In Black when it was still a punk band, then AIB when they got folkier and rockier and then when the guitarist began working first on Grey Kingdom and then on his own – and recognizing that while there was a connection between those beginnings and the portrait of the artist who made this album is humongous. Between all those beginnings and this, Burton laid down childish things and grew up – the sound heard on Coyote is one made by a musician who has learned his lessons and logged his miles and has emerged from it all – he has grown up.

From the moment the album opens and “Things I Can’t Do” leads the album off with a very country vibe complete with acoustic chords and strong but resigned vocal melodies, listeners will know the angle that the album is taking and will still be wowed by just how powerful the presentation is; most rockers who attempt to make the flip from rock to folk or country bank on novelty as a crutch, but Burton proves that he has no need for that. Rather, he simply digs in and inhabits the song like it’s second nature – and it works well because the singer doesn’t hold back or hesitate.

The warm country vibes of Coyote continue smoothly, track-by-track after “Hard Times” closes. Particular standouts like “Hard Times,” “Love At First Sight,” “Breath” and “Nothing’s Changed” all play with a similar sort of presentation which is really capable of winning listeners’ hearts as they each tap into a set of widely relatable emotional centres and, while there are a couple of moments throughout the album’s running which come up a little short of the rest (“Further” somehow manages to sound a little too much like Leonard Cohen for a man who inhabits a tenor vocal register, made all the more questionable by the bass line – which sounds like it was sampled off of a karaoke CD and the guitar sounds like it was cribbed out of a Rod Stewart song – combined, it’s just really problematic), none of the weaker moments come close to matching the levels that the highs achieve along the way. As the restless heart of “Horseback” makes its way through, the gang vocals which reach out through the chorus gently imply that the album is coming to a close – but the last turns that “Lonesome Dove” makes, with a great and powerful chord progression and vocal to match, see the end looking up brightly. Listeners may find themselves glowing, in that end; the trip from top to bottom is genuinely elegant.

Anyway, by the time the download ran its way out the first time, I realized that I hadn’t finished the dishes. In fact, I hadn’t moved – I hadn’t dared to move, for fear that I would somehow miss something – I was just that captivated by it. Now having run through it several more times (and I don’t feel like I’m done with it quite yet), I feel like I can say confidently that Coyote is a benchmark release in Spencer Burton’s catalogue. I hope he’s as big a fan of it as I am; I’m pretty sure this is the album (his fifth solo release) that Spencer Burton will be spending the duration of his career trying to answer. [Bill Adams]


Coyote will be released on April 9, 2021 on Still Records/Dine Alone. Pre-order it here directly from Dine Alone.

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