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The Shawl
Artist: Doug Burr
©2009 Velvet Blue Music 

If modern worship formulas did not so dominate the radio airwaves or saturate the heart of today’s mega-churches and the wannabe’s, we might smell the sweeter aromas of humbler offerings to God. In other words, the pretentious flavor of the month cannot hold a candle to “The Shawl.” Velvet Blue being one of the last places I would look to find a gem like this.

Having stated the aforementioned, Doug Burr uses the Psalms with authority and grace, yet delicately meanders along through the poetry without it sounding pushy. Sparse, open nuances fill in the background gorgeously with his acoustic presence front and center. Think Denison Witmer backed by a restrained Six Parts Seven or Saxon Shore.

This fluid moment in time passes all too quickly, therefore making favorite tracks nearly indistinguishable. If there are any tracks that rise above the others, “Surely God Is Good To Israel,” “And We Will Be Saved,” and “Which We Have Heard And Known” are my picks. Though, after my dad’s recent passing, the last track, “In The Lord I Take Refuge” was the first song I numbly played on my iPod, taking solace in a larger Creator. Maybe, this is why the disc has meant more to me.

March 2009

The Shawl
Artist: Doug Burr 
LabeL; Velvet Blue Music
Length: 9/33:45

With the Psalms dominating in theme and lyric, The Shawl is nine tales of emotion, from joy to turmoil, from praise to despair, and back again.  Burr’s vocals range from plaintive Sufjan Stevens/Elliott Smith please to Ryan Adams/Wilco declarative statements of facts.

“I Am Weary With My Singing” recalls David the king of Israel, crying out to God and awaiting an answer in response to his dutiful praises.  “And We Will Be Saved” is a throwback, Jim Croce-styled vocal, while “God is Known in Judah” evokes Half-Handed Cloud.

Lyrically, the album at its best conjures images of Rich Mullins, in its exploration of all sides of human emotion and how that emotion colors our relationship to God.  “My Voice Rises to God” is honest, revealing frailty and a crisis of faith, while grasping for hope.  The highlight here, though, is the stunning “The Righteous Will Rejoice,” which features a choral part at the end that offers a small glimpse of Heaven.  The Shawl is an album suitable for study or for listening pleasure ­ it can be received on many different levels depending on where the listener happens to be spiritually at that moment.  It will please, convict, empathize with, and teach you.

Brian A. Smith
19 April 2009

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