(release date: May 24, 2019)
By Bob Marovich
The debut solo release by Johnny Burroughs, lead vocalist for Denver band The Burroughs, is not a romp through the “sweaty soul music” for which the band is known but a thrumming Christian album titled DAY 1.
Though it would be unnatural for Burroughs to not channel some “sweaty soul” into DAY 1, he draws more heavily on his other life as a pastor and music minister. This self-penned, self-produced batch of lyrically and melodically uncomplicated songs of praise and worship invokes the sonic inventiveness of Bryan Popin, the blue-eyed soul of Eli “Paperboy” Reed, and the simple cool of Jonathan McReynolds.
Rather than follow the conventions of gospel or soul exclusively, Burroughs ventures forth into territory that embraces rock, jazz, and pop music. The overarching vibe is an understated exuberance, full of rhythm but not overproduced. “Unabashedly” is an excellent example of his style, with its low-key manner of making a bold statement that blossoms like a tulip into an expansive and thunderous clap of worship. “God is Love” is another cut emblematic of Burroughs’ slender sound, as is the hypnotic and nearly eight-minute “Symphony of Love.”
Tom Amend’s organ simmers at the start of the rhythmic “I Will Sing” and comes out from behind the shadows at the vamp to serve as a second voice. His organ work also charms on “Your Love Makes Me Happy.” The most gospel-sounding cut on the album, “Your Love Makes Me Happy” opens with a funky mid-tempo bounce, then lets loose with a drive-tempo backbeat.
While chopping a 1950s doo-wop chord pattern on electric guitar, Burroughs sings the lovely “You Are My Home.” The praiser “YHWH” also has a retro feel in its chord progression and insistently staccato keyboard work. And there are real brass players on the album, not synthesized horns.
DAY 1 may confuse people seeking a typical gospel or CCM experience, but on the other hand, it is the kind of album that will attract people to Christian music who do not consider themselves sacred music enthusiasts.
Four of Five Stars
Pick: “Your Love Makes Me Happy”