Shauna Burns – Scarborough Fair
Shauna Burns has been producing outstanding music since her first album in 2005, releasing further well received releases, and making numerous successful live appearances. Her dozen years in the world of popular music have seen her artistic and musical gifts grow exponentially and the songwriting skills she brings to her work on a regular basis rank among the best active on the scene today. Her latest single “Scarborough Fair”, demonstrates her growing confidence as a singer and musician. It is, of course, a cover of a longtime folk standard dating well back over a hundred years and popularized, most notably, by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Simon & Garfunkel. Burns, to her credit, takes on the song like she’s oblivious to its long history. There’s no sign of treating it with kid gloves, too respectfully, like some butterfly pinned under glass. Instead, her cover of this classic resonates with life and beauty.
She centers the arrangement on piano instead of guitar and the decision does give the song a slightly stagier, theatrical feel. This is a positive – she seems to be playing to the storytelling strengths of the song’s lyric but surrounding it with a musical environment that embodies it in some way. It’s also an ideal setting for Burns’ voice to come into. She is mixed high, but never so much that she dominates the song to the detriment of the other players, and instead tailors her voice quite nicely to the accompanying piano. The gorgeous melody that is the eternal bedrock of this song finds itself in more than talented hands with the way Shauna Burns glides through its rising and falling. It’s notable how the song handles its crescendos – there are some here, but they are so modulated that only attentive listeners will hear them pass, but you somehow feel them nonetheless as you listen. There’s a sense of real drama driving this musical performance.
The instruments are well recorded and the piano, presumably played by Burns herself, gives off true warmth despite the hint of echo or, perhaps, distant miking shaping its sound. The song is arranged in such a way that the singing and instrumental melodies move precisely with one another, yet the song manages to breathe somehow and loses none of its flexibility. It’s easy to mess these old songs off, applying too much force to get them over with listeners when you should just play things looser yet respectful, and Shauna Burns seems to understand that well. “Scarborough Fair” comes off exceptionally well, never overly reverential, and imaginative enough to not simply pursue imitating past interpretations but, instead, strike out on your own. Shauna Burns has the skill and confidence to pull such things off and it gets quite an entertaining workout with this performance. Anyone who enjoy quality intelligent, nuanced music will find much to admire with this song.