So far, 2023 is sounding a lot more diverse than the last three years have, and you needn’t look any further than the Americana beat to appreciate what I’m talking about. Danny Burns is back this year with what could be the best collection of tracks out of his scene in the all-new Promised Land, and while the album is comprised of ten uniquely experimental jettisons into harmony-powered country, it’s anything but scattered in construction. In Promised Land, Burns explores his compositional skillset with a liberal persuasion, finding new ground to break in cover songs like “Fields of Gold,” “Some Might Say” and the sophisticated “Living in the Promisedland.” There’s nothing audibly holding him back from getting as crazy as he wants here, which ultimately leads to some true sonic treasures for fans and critics alike.
There’s nothing particularly overindulgent in this LP’s tracklist, but almost all of its tracks boast a certain grandiosity that makes them feel a bit more theatrical than the status quo would call for. “Someone Like You,” the record’s centerpiece in my opinion, has an ambitious stylization that makes it feel more like the opening chapter of a novel as opposed to a random excerpt from a new bluegrass album. The same can be said for “Nothing But a Child,” my favorite song from the record, as well as “Magnolia Wind” and “Lifeline,” a worthy potential leadoff single, all of which couple folk influences with country poetry of the most striking strain. Burns was certainly in an interesting frame of mind when he recorded this, and it doesn’t take a professional critic to recognize that in Promised Land.
The emotional investment that our leading man is handing over to “Come to Jesus,” “Danny Boy” and “Dirty Old Town” is almost startling to encounter at first, but after taking in the entire record, it’s not surprising at all. Danny Burns’ generation has developed some very heartfelt music before Promised Land, but there’s an unrestrained vibe in his approach to the mic in this LP that I don’t recall hearing in any other recent recordings. This is a nuanced, personal album for him, and though it’s perhaps not as endearing to passersby as it is to devoted fans of this artist, I think it’s going to bode well for his legacy at any rate.
I came into this review of Danny Burns’ Promised Land with a lot of big expectations, but I’m happy to say that it lives up to all of them without exception. Promised Land is a smashing LP built on muscular musicality as much as it is familiar yet fresh poeticisms that reveal quite a bit about who Burns is in 2023, and for all of its most experimental moments, it’s one of the more accessible records I’ve heard lately. This artist is far from done occupying a space in the underground, and whether his ascent is bolstered by this latest record or not, the credibility surrounding his output is something I can’t imagine fading for some time to come.