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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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Show review: David Burchfield and The Great Stop's Farewell Show at recordBar, 8.10.13

 
 
In the early evening hours of August 10, a crowd of well-wishers gathered at recordBar to witness a somewhat unusual event: a band celebrating the release of its first full-length CD … and doing so by performing for the last time. The term “bittersweet” seems tailor-made for just such an evening, but David Burchfield and The Great Stop seemed intent on ensuring that the sweet far surpassed the bitter on this night—and it did.
 
Burchfield will soon be leaving us, swapping the plains of the Midwest for the mountains of Colorado where he will be working toward earning his Ph.D. in Environmental Studies; in his words, “studying ways that disenfranchised communities can be better included in land-use planning and conservation decision-making.” His commitment to his future is commendable, as was his dedication to completing Perseids, a ten-track cornucopia of gentle, rustic charm and swirling, harmonic grace with roots that can be traced back five years to the penning of its oldest track. To label the album as “Americana” is far too broad a brushstroke; Perseids is 33 minutes of comfort food for the ears and the soul.
 
Full disclosure: Chris Haghirian of Ink magazine and I used to host a weekly podcast called The Mailbox (to which Deli editor-in-chief Michelle Bacon lent her expertise in making it ready for online presentation). For a show dedicated to the Chevy Local Music Showcase, Chris reached out to area bands and asked them for some new songs to play. Upon receiving this request, Burchfield decided to go one better: he got everyone together and wrote and recorded a brand-new song just for The Mailbox. That song became “Rite Two,” which is the sixth track on Perseids. So yeah, you might say that Chris and Michelle and I are fans. Check out that episode of The Mailbox at the link.
 
The Great Stop has gone through a few lineup changes since its inception in the spring of 2010, and is now predominantly a five-piece as opposed to the quartet that recorded the album. Only one other original member remains: bassist Seth Jenkins. The rest of the troupe of troubadours on stage (Camry Ivory on keys and vocals, Neil Ginther on banjo, kick drum, and vocals, Scott Shaw on fiddle, and guest bassist Matt Cathlina) were lock-step with Burchfield as he led those in attendance on a forty-five-minute show of gratitude for allowing him and the Great Stop to have their moment in the sun. That appreciation was clearly mutual, with several sustained rounds of applause throughout their set.
 
Keeping things light and loose seemed to be the intent throughout (from an impromptu “let’s hold this note impossibly long and see what happens” moment during the title track to asking if anyone in the crowd would be able to video their performance of a new song, “By the Coast,” so he could send it to Leslie Hammer, a friend and former member of the band), and I wondered if this might have been by design to keep the mood from getting too nostalgic and sorrowful. According to Burchfield, that didn’t seem to be the case: “The show was a culmination of a lifetime of hard work and passion for the music. I felt a great sense of satisfaction and completion—just great contentment to get to play these songs with so many people that I loved for so many MORE people that I loved! I just felt glad.”
 
The band closed with, appropriately, “The Great Stop,” which strikes me as the thoughts of a man realizing that there is far more in his world than he is aware, and because of that realization he may be aspiring for something—more meaning, more purpose perhaps. It could be interpreted as relating to Burchfield’s desire to set foot on a new path that may not always be comfortable, but one which he feels sure he must follow. As he prepares to close this chapter of his life and put pen to paper on the next one, these lyrics seemed to speak to this:
 
“Though there be unquestionable danger
In things not understood
In some you find the feeling
That this indeed is something good”
 
Cheers, David – here’s to The Great Stop giving yield to a greater start.
 
Here's a video of David and The Great Stop on the Chevy Music Showcase. They're being interviewed by KC band The Silver Maggies.
 
 
--Michael Byars
 

Michael Byars has an infatuation with cider, which we all think comes from his internal Britishness, but he works cheap and spells most of his words correctly, so we let him hang around. And Michelle still likes to punch him every once in a while. Executive privilege and all that, jolly good, pip pip, cheerio.

 
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