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Joshua Burkett - Life Less Lost

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Artist: Joshua Burkett

Album: Life Less Lost

Label: Spirit Of Orr

Review date: Jun. 28, 2004

Life Lest Lost inhabits that same shadowy zone as Six Organs Of Admittance and PG Six, one in which the more brain-fried variants of í60s folk experimentation get rolled into contemporary low-tech home recording. Its architect, New Englander Joshua Burkett, has been on records for years, but you could be forgiven for not noticing. He first showed up about a decade ago, overblowing saxophone on Vermonsterís The Holy Sound Of American Pipe (Twisted Village); if you havenít heard the record, suffice to say that itís a Wayne Rogers and Kate Biggar recording that makes their work with Magic Hour and the Major Stars sound pithy.

Sometime during the í90s Burkett swapped his sax for a banjo, guitar, and pennywhistle, then commenced putting out CDs of rustic fever dream folk music on his own Feather Oneís Nest label. If you, like this writer, werenít in on that particular stage of the Western Mass., freak scene, you probably missed them, but Spirit Of Orr has given us all a second crack at Life Less Lost.

The album, originally recorded in 1997 and 1998 on a borrowed 4-track machine, most differs from the work of Burkettís aforementioned brethren in a couple ways, but theyíre differences of degree, not kind. Heís less concerned with instrumental competence, more preoccupied with getting a striking sound. And if that means simply whacking the hell out of a couple banjo strings, panning them across the speakers, and cloaking them in echo, so be it. In this regard, Burkett presents himself as a true heir to the anything goes ethic of the Incredible String Band.

Burkettís songs radiate an aura of stoned wonder that might occasionally flicker, but never goes out; an air of whimsy blows through the record. Sometimes itís hard to make out what the songs are about, thanks to the liberally applied echo that sometimes blurs Burkettís word beyond recognition. But how many times have you enjoyed a song only to be brought low by crummy lines and clunky rhymes? The tuneís where itís at, and Burkettís are catchy enough to snag your sleeve and lead you down the proverbial path.

By Bill Meyer

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