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It seems more and more like hearing a new album is like opening a box of Crackerjacks. I can't think of many lately which have not contained a surprise and sometimes more than one. Hardin Burns, a collaboration between Jeannie Burns of The Burns Sisters and Andrew Hardin, slipped one in which almost got by me in the form of Beware of Darkness, a song which seemed at first listen to be without the requisite melody and feel of the rest of the songs on their new Lounge album. It is more dense and somewhat dark in mood and I didn't think all that much of it until this morning when it all of a sudden broke through. I don't know why it happens, songs passing by you until a certain moment in time, but it happens. Truth be told, I have never been much of a George Harrison fan, having been Hare Krishna'd more than I would have liked over the years, but there is something in Hardin Burns' treatment of Beware of Darkness which makes me think I need to maybe revisit Harrison's work. In an ?it's not you, it's me? kind of way. Too many times I make up my mind only to find out later that I shouldn't have.

I more than likely would have missed this album altogether had it not been for Tom Mank. Mank has mentioned The Burns Sisters more than once in conversations over the past few years. Until I visited the Burns Sisters website previous to writing this, I had no idea that they all lived in or around Ithaca, New York--- Mank territory. But, hey, Tom didn't have to mention Lounge to me more than once, whether Hardin and Burns were from his area or not. Mank is a hell of a musician and a good friend and I listen very closely to what he says.

I had heard a Burns Sisters album a handful of years ago--- one distributed by or actually recorded for Rounder Records. I liked it, but at that time I was involved in something which left little time for music so it passed through my ears and out of my mind quickly. I remember being intrigued by the voices--- three, I assume, harmoniously congruent female voices which still reverberate in my head even though I could not name any songs I had heard. There is something about siblings when they sing. The voices, I think, ring truer.

Jeannie's rings true on its own, though, and add Hardin's (along with some impressive picking and a band virtually made for this music) and you have an album for long drives in the country or just Sunday afternoons laying back. Their music reminds me a bit of my sojourn into country rock in the early seventies--- artists who were more rock than country but who had definitive roots in blues, country and folk. Hardin Burns covers it all and does so with that smooth flair which made bands like Cowboy and Uncle Jim's Music favorites.

Favorite songs on this album right now are the spacey and moody but strangely uplifting The Road, with shuffling beat and stacked harmonies. Both Burns and Hardin seem to step into another dimension when singing this song and the acoustic violin offsets the depth and the mood beautifully. Earthquake Hurricane Flood is more R&B than blues at its core and you get it full bore in an acoustic setting. The voices are recorded to perfection and the heavy reverb on the electric guitar is primo. Nice acoustic guitar solo break too. Angels Waiting is a step toward Emmylou Harris in structure, the chorus dipped in the female/male harmonies for which she has become famous over the years. These guys nail it.

Which is why I find Beware of Darkness the odd choice as closer. I'm slipping through country rock territory until the end and then am hit with this Harrison oddity? At first, I was taken aback, but the more I hear it, I think they may have made the obvious choice to set this album apart. It is, in a way, the perfect closer, for it is not like the rest of the album. It stands out in its lack of the country rock sound upon which the rest of the album is based. And it works! Yep, I'm going to have to revisit my stance on Harrison. Funny how things like this happen, eh?

What can I say? I guess I'm not as perfect as I thought, at least when it comes to music. And such knowledge comes from the oddest sources and at the oddest times. It just goes to show you that sincerity and honesty in some music leads to humility on all levels. It's one of the things I really love about music. You never really know how it will affect you.

And I'll bet Hardin Burns have no idea how much power they have.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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