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Denton folk singer Doug Burr takes a compellingly cautious tack on new CD

Posted 11:04am on Wednesday, Apr. 28, 2010

Doug Burr is nervous about what's next.

Not in a locked-in-his-room-like-Howard Hughes way, but in a larger, more metaphorical sense.

That faintly paranoid distrust of the new permeates the whole of the Denton singer-songwriter's latest record, O Ye Devastator.

"I'm scared of the future in a lot of ways," Burr says, "[with] technology and databases and everything being tracked ... all this information. I think there's a good bit of that [on Devastator]."

O Ye Devastator's 11 songs pick up where 2007's On Promenade left off.

Walking a tightrope between cautious optimism and intellectual dread, Burr's songs are utterly compelling, folk-tinged dispatches from an uncertain present. Backed by Todd Pertll on pedal steel and Glen Farris on keys, among others, Devastator -- littered with mesmerizing tracks like A Black Wave Is Comin' and High Blood and Long Evening Dresses -- sneaks up on you in dazzling fashion.

"A weird thought occurred to me the other day," Burr says, acknowledging that the new album is very much "seasoned in ... dread." " On Promenade seems like a backwards album, kind of mining through history, and this one seemed much more forward-looking. Chief of Police in Chicago is almost like a sci-fi story; You've Been a Suspect All Your Life is like a second part of that story."

It's a tale several years in the telling. Burr admits his writing style, despite all outward appearances, is really slow, which doesn't lend itself to prolificacy.

Indeed, some of the deliberate, Orwellian-flavored songs on O Ye Devastator date back half a decade.

"I might start a song, and it may take years to finish it," he says, "but I'm always starting new ones, so there's always something near the top of that pipeline."

Devastator arrives after his well-received 2008 CD The Shawl, which found Burr using Psalms as literal inspiration. He characterizes that project as "a big risk" -- more of a calculated breather than a proper follow-up to his breakout record, On Promenade.

"I think ... nobody knows [ The Shawl] exists," Burr says. "We kind of expected that; there really was no market path for that to go down, that I could see. But it kept things hot in the local market, at least."

Burr plans to celebrate Devastator's release (it's available now on iTunes) with a handful of local shows -- May 13 at Fort Worth's Central Market and May 14 at Dallas' newly rejuvenated Kessler Theater. He will also tour beyond Texas' borders, a rarity for the father and husband. There's even talk of some European dates in the fall.

"For me, with a family and supporting them with the normal day job, that's a big commitment for me to make," Burr says. "I have no idea how we can pull that off and me still feed my family, but my wife and I, we feel like it's time to take this leap of faith."

There may be more Shawl-like detours in Burr's future, but for now, he's content to let the subtly unsettling sounds of O Ye Devastator find favor among fans and the unfamiliar alike.

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