David Burke

David Burke is an Irish writer based in the UK since 1990. He has been a regular contributor to Classic Pop, Vintage Rock and RNR magazines, and the All About Jazz website. A selection of his pieces can be found on Rock's Backpages, the world’s largest archive of music journalism. He has authored five books, including Heart of Darkness: Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska (Cherry Red), A Sense of Wonder: Van Morrison’s Ireland (Jawbone Press), Singing Out: A Folk Narrative of Maddy Prior, Linda Thompson and June Tabor, and Giant Steps: Diverse Journeys in British Jazz. https://www.rocksbackpages.com/Library/Writer/david-burke

Sep 152023

Van Morrison, very sadly, is no longer Van The Man. More Van the Curmudgeon. But curmudgeon doesn’t rhyme. However, Van the Also-Ran does. A bit harsh? Maybe. Though a procession of erratic (and, in the case of Latest Record Project: Volume 1, irascible) albums, probably since 2016’s Keep Me Singing, hardly offer a robust defense.

Oh, but when he was The Man, he was good. Real good. In his ’70s pomp Van Morrison was on a whole other wavelength (if you will). High on that amorphous thing we call soul, he made us high too on the likes of Moondance, Tupelo Honey and Veedon Fleece. And then there was Into the Music, a collection that accommodated the instantly irresistible “Bright Side of the Road” and “Full Force Gale,” as well as the deeper dives “And the Healing Has Begun” and “It’s All in the Game.”
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Aug 082023

One Great Cover looks at the greatest cover songs ever, and how they got to be that way.

A confession: I am an avowed Lankumite. Is that even a thing? Well, if it isn’t, it should be. Anyway, Lankum, the folk-music group from Dublin, are doing radical things with traditional Irish (and, more broadly, Celtic) song. They’ve taken the genre from the middle of the road, where it’s been content to exist in an almost homogenous state of stupefaction, and dragged it back into the ditch (yep, you’ve probably read that analogy before). Now, don’t get me wrong; there is a jaw-dropping virtuosity among the current constituency of players–but, well, that’s the problem. It’s all too impeccably rendered. There is little or no grit. Not only do Lankum drag it back into the ditch, they drag it through the mud of edgy contemporary influences to forge something as modern as it is ancient.

Three albums in and the promise of each has delivered in spades. Mojo magazine described Between the Earth and Sky as “powerfully strange” (in a good way), while The Independent newspaper in the UK lauded Lankum for offering “an object lesson in how to perform old songs in new ways, without losing the essential sense of continuity that gives traditional music its timeless appeal.” Their followup, The Livelong Day, is every more delightfully disquieting – the track “Katie Cruel” especially so – and finds the band firmly staking the territory claimed on their debut before they establish their own country altogether on False Lankum.

The real revelation, among many, is “The Wild Rover” (from Between the Earth and Sky), a horror movie dirge that subverts the popular embrace of the song as a drinking anthem and plunges it into a miasma of alcoholic regret.
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Aug 042023

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.


Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska confounded a lot of people when he released it in 1982. Probably still does, especially among recently converted followers. I mean, how do you explain it someone who’s yet to hear it? I tried in my book Heart of Darkness: Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, writing this:

Nebraska is raw, primitive, ancient, otherworldly, spiritual, nihilistic, heartbreaking, horrifying and a whole bunch of other things that come to you like apparitions whenever you enter its province (ideally under cover of darkness)….And like the great films and the great novels, it holds up well. It holds up well because it still has something to teach us about ourselves and the world we live in, and maybe even the world beyond this one.

Just as Springsteen was inspired by Woody Guthrie and Flannery O’Connor and Night of the Hunter and Suicide and Terrence Malick and Martin Scorsese on Nebraska, so too has Nebraska become a touchstone for artists of myriad forms – Bruised Orange theatre company’s The Nebraska Project, Tennessee Jones’ short story collection Deliver Me from Nowhere, and Sean Penn’s directorial debut The Indian Runner, based on the song “Highway Patrolman.”

And then there is, of course, the tribute album, Badlands: A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, helmed by producer and filmmaker Jim Sampas.
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Jul 282023

One Great Cover looks at the greatest cover songs ever, and how they got to be that way.

Christy Moore

“Danny Boy” is a song guaranteed to wring a tear from the misty eyes of most Irish natives, including this one (though, admittedly, there have occasionally been tears of rage shed in this parish over some versions – Cher, anyone?). Such lacrimation is particularly effusive among Irish emigres – again, including this writer – usually at the end of a long night in some foreign hostelry when faraway hills appear exponentially greener and more fertile than they once were. My compatriots and I are nothing if not shameless wool gatherers when there’s drink involved. Mind you, we’re also susceptible to putting our fists up on the slightest pretext. And if you want to take issue with that latter characterization, we can always settle it outside.

Of course, the delicious irony is that “Danny Boy,” for all that it’s something of an unofficial Irish anthem, was penned by, ahem, an Englishman. And so, a potted history.
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