Two decades of writing and performing music in America and the friendships forged as an active member of the Americana community during those years pay huge dividends for Danny Burns on his debut album.
Burns, a native of Ireland's County Donegal, amassed a killer cohort of the genre's top players to bring his songs to life, including acoustic luminaries like Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Tim O'Brien and Dan Tyminski, who are all featured prominently throughout the 10-song set.
The mere presence of these hotshot pickers may lead you to conclude that this is an instrumental showcase, but by and large the arrangements here are appropriately understated. The real beauty of this album is how Burns, who also produced, used the considerable resources at his disposal to support both the individual song narratives and his distinctive yet subdued brogue.
"Down & Out" is the perfect example of this formula in action. Both Bush and Douglas contribute and aside from a few solo lines by the latter, they play in service of the story - a personal tune in which Burns describes the pain that comes when life isn't going your way.
Burns' Irish roots are most evident on "Great Big Sea" and "Darling Roisin." The latter is a haunting Celtic folk tune that finds a narrator sharing a story of sadness and longing, while the former, with its rousing and fiddle-driven melody, presents like a personal recollection of Burns' early years in Ireland
Speaking of rousing melodies, there is none more upbeat or catchier than "Look Into Her Eyes." The tune, which features Holly Williams on harmony lead vocals, was clearly inspired by Burns' time in New Orleans and reflects the acoustic music popular in that region.
Another duet accounts for one of the stronger tunes. "Amy," features Irish folk singer Cara Dillion and the two voices combine to create a moving and heartfelt tribute to the late Amy Winehouse.
"North Country" is an impressive debut, making it doubtful that audiences will have to wait another 20 years for Burns' sophomore effort.