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Album review: David Burchfield and The Great Stop - Homesongs & Lullabies

Many songwriters (and other artists) say the process of creation is a sort of archaeological dig. They tend to describe it as exposing a shape that was already there—it's more like sculpture, where the old joke is that you chip away everything that's not a statue. Not so much like, say, ceramics, where everything is built up from scratch.
 
In any case, there's an excitement to the process, and a song demo can be literally a demonstration of that excitement. Fluffed chords, a scratchy throat, even a cough in the middle of a section—none of those really matter. They're little stumbles that happen while trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Some might say they're the flaws that make it all real.
 
Jules Shear, a revered songwriter, if not all that well-known these days, may have been the first to play with this idea, in his 1985 album Demo-itis. It was a collection of song demos with a certain spark that the "actual" songs (some of them big hits) never quite regained.
 
The case in point here is a new collection of song demos, Homesongs and Lullabies, by David Burchfield. Some of the songs, mostly recorded alone late at night, are the original versions later fleshed out and released by his band The Great Stop. Others are reworked and rearranged versions of those songs, proving that the creative process isn't necessarily over when the song has been released.
 
Of course, it takes a lot of nerve to do this. The emperor may have no clothes, but it's quite another thing when he deliberately disrobes. As Burchfield explains on his website, "the recordings are uncut, unproduced, and messy…. [S]omething about that vulnerability sounds really good to me."
 
The sound? Well, it's not polished. These are probably boombox or recordings, mostly just a single guitar and voice, and "lullabies" is an apt description of the relentlessly down-tempo mood. But the thoughts and heartfelt melodies that come just before bedtime rarely make for a party scene.
 
There are some lovely moments here, particularly in the full band's rehearsal take of "Rite Two," a song that appeared on the recentalbum Perseids. The demos of "Embers and Ash" and "By the Coast," in particular, struck me as perfectly viable in this stripped down form. Mostly, though, this collection is the sound of vulnerability, a soul laid bare.
 
Burchfield, in an email, said this release is mostly for the fans, to add another layer of meaning to songs they already know well. For anyone, though, it could be a welcome accompaniment to the winding down process at the end of the day. And who knows what dreams may come as a result?
 
You can stream and buy Homesongs and Lullabies at http://davidburchfieldmusic.com/store.
 
 
Burchfield returns to Kansas City for the holiday (he recently moved to Colorado) and will be performing with The Great Stop this Saturday, December 21 at The Brick, with special guests Attic Wolves and Devon Russell (of The Natural State/The Great Stop). Facebook event page.
 
—Pat Tomek
 
Pat currently plays drums for the Rainmakers, Howard Iceberg & the Titanics, and Deco Auto. He also records songwriters and bands at Largely Studios.
 
 

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