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Joe Burns - Blue Flame Guitar
By Ben Ohmart
(more articles from this author)
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Joe Burns (, up and coming guitar hero, wields His trusted stratocaster with both the solemn conviction of a Bible and the thrusting energy of a battle sword. His latest album, Road Runner, embodies the strength, depth, and maturity typical of major bands. You know: loud, close to the microphone, performances and recordings polished like a flat stove. He takes the elements of country crossover and blends it with the personality of a Jim Morrison (singer and writer both). The diversity of His unique guitar licks make it difficult to figure out what section of the music store this should go in.

When the short instrumental "1970" comes along, you might think of a Jeff Beck or Kansas segment. But, the blues element is always strong. Always. Perhaps it's the dominant flavor of attitude and orchestration. Listen to "When a Love Song Sings the Blues" and try to make out an instrument, besides the steady beat of the thick-skinned drums, that isn't a guitar. If there is a regular bass, it's being murdered by the overdubs of stalwart guitars flicking through the badass song like so many discarded cigarettes.

Streaming MP3: "Burnin' With a Blue Flame"

The patience for layering and mixing that this sort of perfection takes is impressive. His raw honest vocals let the lyrics tell the story. The moral of the album can be lauded in the 3-minute "Guitar Mojo," which spirits the darkness into your ears like some light metal tune from the late 70's, before shouting became the norm. Yet, Joe's sense of blues and folk pervades every track he lays down. It makes the man accessible, blue collar, and easily lets you become wrapped up in his plugged world as he paints detailed pictures of sound and working class minds.

"Fade Away" is probably one of the most successful of the pensive tracks. Play it when the sky clouds up, stream it at midnight when you feel your eyes weighting down. The catchy subtlety of the tune throbs with another strong guitar chord, making you want to answer him immediately. "Why do you always fade away?"

Streaming MP3: "To the Bone"

Joe explains how this CD came to be. "A few years back, I was playing in a band doing all cover songs, we were working pretty regular, always learning new songs. Although there is nothing wrong with this, I wasn't really happy (a lot of work for what?). So I decided it was time for me to dedicate my time and talent towards doing my own music.

Road Runner took me about two years from start to finish. I wrote about twenty-three songs, recorded them completely, and then selected the best mix for this CD. It is my first CD, and I am proud of it, since I played all the instruments, and recorded and mixed it in my 24-track studio. Everything you see and hear I did myself... from the opening guitar lead on "Blue Flame" to the CD cover design, layout and artwork. It did take a little longer than I expected. But you know, after hearing the end result, people in general start to take you a helluva lot more seriously. I am finding that I have quite a few people offering their talent and skills to help out on the new CD."

Streaming MP3: "When a Love Song Sings the Blues"

And to the uninitiated, Joe explains his music. "I would have to say it's a combination of rock peppered with blues flavor. There are up tempo bluesy rockers, straight forward rock and roll, power ballads, acoustic slide guitar, harmonica, some story telling, and never a shortage of guitar leads."

As a songwriter: "I don' t really have a set format. When I come up with an interesting piece of music I will go and record it before I forget it, and work on it from there. Usually, once I have a basic idea for the music and I come up with a subject to write the lyrics about, it comes together pretty quick. Other times I might write the lyrics and melody first. I don't really try to write in any specific genre. I like to let the song write itself. I try not to be too clever or too predictable, somewhere in the middle, and vague enough so people can interpret the songs differently, this way they can relate it to their own situation. Everyone seems to choose a different song as their favorite from the Road Runner CD, and to me that's a good thing."

Streaming MP3: "Whiskey Is..."

Before he began playing, he listened to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Robin Trower, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jonny Winter, Rick Derringer, and Jeff Beck. "When I decided to pick up the guitar, I really considered these players GUITAR HEROES (I still do today). As time went by, the list of heroes started to grow to include Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ynwie Malmsteen, Albert King, Gary Moore, Vinnie Moore, Ian Moore, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Brain Setzer... well, it is obvious this list is starting to go on and on. Pretty much anybody I listen to who inspires me to play I consider a Guitar Hero."

More on Joe Burns
* Genre: Rock & Blues
* Website:
* Label: Three-Point-Two Records
* Buy "Road Runner"
* Contact Joe Burns

But when it comes to cover at live gigs, he's got enough material not to bother with anyone else's stuff. "But now that you've mentioned it... I would love to do Spanish "Castle Magic" (Jimi Hendrix), Jeff Healy's version of "Stuck in the Middle with You," "Blue Jean Blues" (ZZ Top), or maybe some SRV." He's not been compared to many artists yet, but it's only a matter of time.

For now, though, he's not bothering with touring. "At the moment, I have been locked in the studio writing and recording the next CD. Eighteen songs have been written already, seven of these have been recorded and I am very pleased with the way they are turning out. I wanted to wait until this next CD is released before doing any live shows. This way we will have plenty of material to draw from. Hopefully by February I will have the personnel lined out and we will start putting together the live sets."

Streaming MP3: "Fade Away"

Burns admits it's difficult to get a recording contract these days. Even to cost your own financed projects. "But it really doesn't matter. I will still be doing this thing called music (not because I want to, I just feel like I have to). But don't get me wrong, the money would be great, but this is one of those times when the ride is just as enjoyable as the destination. So in my heart, as long as I am playing music, I am making a living." To the up and comers he says, "Write songs about things you really care about, and when playing live always try to play like it is the last show you will ever do."

In ten years he sees himself with five or six CDs under his belt, playing all the live shows he can find, and spending the off-hours just writing and playing more. "I have a lot of dreams, but for as far as my music... I am just trying to take it one step at a time, you know, get my name out there... improve as a singer and songwriter and guitar player, always improving... sell enough CDs to keep me afloat. As long as all this is happening, I am living my dream and fulfilling my need to create as an artist."

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