Ayo Jegede
reviews editor
May 28, 2005
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Burning in the Sun Burning in the Sun
February 15, 2005
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Rock Music Reviews
Blue Merle
Burning In The Sun

Burning In The Sun isn't bad by dint of Blue Merle's marginal capabilities; these guys aren't marginal at all. Luke Reynolds's voice is dexterous and mellifluous, a steady falsetto that lacks any malice whatsoever; bassist Jasonn Oettel keeps pace with the group, supplementing each song with a firm backbone, while mandolinist Beau Stapleton and drummer William Ellis offer interesting bluegrass sketches. the album isn't bad because it's somehow mendaciously compiled and presented, evidenced by touring gigs with musicians like Marc Broussard, Glen Phillips, and Jem, to say nothing of playing big events like Farm Aid and Bonnaroo. they have the verve, talent, bourgeoning success (the title track is a hit single and the band's been featured on FOX's North Shore and on One Tree Hill), and critical acceptance. so what makes Burning In The Sun undesirable?

the title track includes some adept, light guitar work from Reynolds, his lyrics lucid and the ideas behind them digestible. Stapleton's mandolin harkens a kind of ensemble fastening as everything catches speed, especially Reynolds's voice, and Oettel provides some flourishes of impromptu and capable drumming. but let's dig a bit deeper. all of 'Burning In The Sun' and, by extension, the rest of the album has the ingredients for a memorable opus but it hits with the flaccid force of, well, radio itself. the mandolin, drums, and guitar recall far too vividly all of the Dave Matthews Band's catalogue, reducing it to a single emotional and sonic peak. Stapleton sounds like Boyd Tinsley and Oettel's mildly impressive drum skills resemble Carter Beauford's.

'If I Could,' the album's second track, follows like the preceding one but eliminates the sundry bluegrass influences and slows down the tempo. what this does is place a spotlight on Reynolds's vocal performance and his skilled dexterity, hitting and holding impressive high notes. some have called it 'Buckley-esque,' but Jeff Buckley's outstanding vox wasn't composed of mechanically impressive high notes alone but also the quasi-spiritual undertones that almost supplanted the music itself. Reynolds's content is by comparison far more facile to the head and far more forthright. really, his lyrical performance makes him sound like Coldplay's Chris Martin: a mere shadow of someone like Buckley.

in the end Burning In The Sun can be completely bifurcated according to the two previously iterated paths: the bluegrass jam band influences on songs like 'Burning In The Sun' and 'Boxcar Racer' or the slower, more reflective pieces like 'Stay,' 'Every Ship Must Sail Away,' and 'Made to Run.' the album could be good and on technical merits alone actually is. yet the resultant combination offers little persuasive differences from radio mates Coldplay, David Gray, or John Mayer. the album isn't good overall because it's just very, very good milquetoast.

Release date: February 15, 2005
Label: Island
Rating: 4.5 / 10