Irish-born singer/songwriter Danny Burns has done well for himself, especially of late. His cover of the Pogues’ Dirty Old Town, culled from his new Bonfire Music Group album, Promised Land, finds Sam Bush in tow, while making it to the top of several playlists. So too, the album’s previous single, Come To Jesus, which also featured Bush on mandolin, enjoyed similar success, garnering a lengthy reign at the top of Bluegrass Today’s Gospel Weekly Airplay chart.
There are any number of other guests contributing to the new album as well, among them Tim O’Brien, who can be found on the majority of its ten tracks, as well as Billy Contreras on fiddle, Scott Vestal on banjo, Matt Menefree playing banjo and mandolin, Tim Crouch on strings, Tony Wray playing acoustic guitar, Michael Webb on accordion, Bryan Simpson playing mandolin, Josh Methany on dobro, Jerry Roe on percussion, Justin Schipper contributing pedal steel guitar, and Aine Burns and Dennis Parker singing backing vocals.
Burns is at the top of his game when he covers others’ material. He follows suit here by taking on songs by Sting (Fields of Gold), Mindy Smith (Come To Jesus), Ewan MacColl (Dirty Old Town), Steve Earle (Nothing But a Child), and any number of similar standards. And while his ability to reboot them for bluegrass makes a decided difference, it’s clear at the outset that he has great taste in tunes. The fact that he’s able to take a song like Danny Boy, and give it the reverence and respect it deserves, while still conveying the sentiment and sensitivity inherent in each of the originals, speaks to his own talent and temperament.
To be sure, this is a fine example of bluegrass at its best. The difference here is that the arrangements manage to be both riveting and restrained, and, in every case, pay homage to the melodies by never allowing the instrumentation to dominate the setting. The result is a genuinely memorable setlist that finds each song a standout. The emphasis isn’t on dazzling his listeners but rather seducing them instead. Promised Land is, in fact, a promise fulfilled.