Doug Burr has a habit of mulling things over, kneading thoughts around until they yield something of value. Burr is soft-spoken, bespectacled and rangy. Yet his placid manner belies the storm of paranoia, longing and wonder agitating at his core. The singer-songwriter from Denton, Texas, is often lauded for his candor, a reputation earned through no small labor. Burr is a disciple of the hard way that weaves between easy answers, buffeted, always pressing toward the truth. It takes patience to navigate that way, bypassing all the satisfying hokum the world offers in order to stress your brain into a deeper thought. But for Burr, anything less is a wasted half-effort. “I’m not in a rush,” Burr plainly declares, and returns to his thoughts.
Burr’s patience is refreshing in the harried world of music. It helps that he entered it well into adulthood. Musically inclined from adolescence, Burr never made much public use of his talents until, as a married man in his late twenties, he found himself playing to a roomful of middle-aged barflies. It planted the seed of a humanistic ethos, in no way novel, but never outworn. Burr found himself connecting to those people through music, so he set about doing that as honestly as a man could.
Four records in, Burr remains true to that code, digging into everything ugly and gorgeous that comprises humanity. You can hear it on the Gospel-inspired Sickle and the Sheaves (2003) and on Burr’s acclaimed sophomore follow-up On Promenade (2007). In 2009, he released an album of Biblical Psalms set to original music called The Shawl. His last work, O Ye Devastator(2012), is an album of both personal confession and ingenious storytelling, as grave in its estimation of human frailty as it is amazed at human loveliness reclaimed.
Doug Burr does believe in reclamation, redemption, restoration. It all accords with his credo as a Christian, a reality he has no interest in either obscuring or marketing. In that sense, he is cut from the same black cloth as Johnny Cash. And like Cash, he eschews stylistic borders. Burr moves freely between country, folk and pop. A lazier writer might call him “Americana” and, unwittingly, be more on point. Burr is an American musician, thinker, composer and lyricist, shaking hands with both the spirits of Appalachia and the ghosts of the Mississippi Delta.
Now Doug Burr returns with a new album, Pale White Dove. While Devastator, dabbled with heavier sounds, Pale White Dove swings the sledgehammer with abandon. Burr sounds like a man whose noted patience is worn to a raw bundle of nerves.The album’s aggression is cut with beautiful country tunes “Never Gonna Be Young Again.” But the soul of Pale White Dove is the electrified “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning.” Titled after the René Girard book, the tune is soaked in Southern Gothic and delivered in a fevered prophecy. The song, and much of the rest of the album, recounts a world tangled in its own violent scapegoating, hopeless save for supernatural intervention. For this reason, Pale White Dove is apt for this age, marred as it is by violence in word and deed. Just one more cogent volume in Burr’s patient vocation of storytelling and truth-digging for the people.