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Genre-Dodging Genius Joshua Burnell Releases 5th Album Glass Knight

Jul 18, 2023

As people with vivid imaginations go, the bold and brilliant singer-songwriter and musician Joshua Burnell has to be right up there.

The York-based performer’s love of fantasy, sci-fi, folklore and fairy tales, heroes and villains, sorcery and the supernatural is something that informs his magical, impossible-to-pigeonhole music.

Born in the Haute-Savoie in France and raised in Linlithgow in Scotland, Burnell’s sweeping musical fusions may owe a debt to English folk roots but the tentacles reach far into places that would be taboo to many folk performers, turning the tradition on its head and exploring a heady brew of prog, contemporary classical, psychedelia, glam and vintage pop-rock – or even ‘Gothic nu-folk’ as one critic summed it up!

Folk for a modern audience for sure, from a ‘light and shade’ showman who can conjure stellar, cinematic, art rock soundscapes one minute and intimate, reflective numbers with poetic, thought-provoking lyrics the next.

Burnell is an extraordinary talent, seemingly with his own musical time machine – able to teleport listeners back into a rich, retro past or into a bold, other-worldly future.

Photo: Elly Lucas

Unpredictable and indefatigable, Burnell is not just a highly original songwriter and singer but also an accomplished multi-instrumentalist (from his trademark Hammond organ and piano to acoustic guitar, accordion, mellotron, synths and drums). He has proved adept at conjuring up vast, lush and layered soundscapes with hooky melodies and retro-synth textures as well as simpler, starker, equally captivating arrangements.

Together with his band he has become a flamboyant festival favourite with a growing reputation as one of the most exciting and innovative acts on the scene, charting his own course, taking no prisoners and never afraid to push the boundaries.

“Labels don’t help with Burnell’s music – just listen”  English Folk & Dance Magazine

Proving equally appealing to Radio 2 and 6 Music listeners, Joshua started making waves with his 2016 ‘folk opera’ Into the Green   The ambitious ‘Seasons’ project saw him release a folk-rock arrangement of a traditional song or tune every week for a year leading to the critically acclaimed Songs from the Seasons album in 2018 which he followed up a year later with folk-rock odyssey The Road to Horn Fair and, in 2020, an acclaimed album bursting with outstanding original songwriting, Flowers Where The Horses Sleep which The Guardian described as “theatrical with lashings of Peter Gabriel stylings”.

Now he is on the brink of releasing his fifth album, the apocalyptic astral adventure Glass Knight, which sees him shape-shifting still further. It will be launched at Fairport’s Cropredy Convention on August 11.

It’s an album that will put the genre police in a tailspin.  Compelling narrative songs looking at climate change and humanity’s toxic relationship with technology merge with revamped folk tales and suggest interstellar imagery reminiscent of the cover of a vintage sci-fi novel.

With all music and lyrics written and arranged by Burnell (he also produced the album)  he is joined by Nathan Greaves on electric guitar, Oliver Whitehouse (bass), Ed Simpson on drums and Frances Sladen (now a rising voice under the moniker ‘So Fe’) on backing vocals. The string section, recorded at York’s Young Thugs Studios comprises  Kathleen Ord and Elizabeth Heyes-Lundie on violins, Ellen Brookes and Rhiannon Fallows on violas and Greg Morton and Ele Leckie on cellos.

It reveals Burnell as a truly singular, stylish and theatrical talent. Perhaps it’s no surprise that one critic said of his last album: “It makes you think Joshua probably has enough in his locker to write a stage musical.”  Perhaps that day is not far away.

Glass Knight is released on August 11 and will be available from Bandcamp and Spotify. Tour dates showcasing the album (see below) will include Towersey, FolkEast and Moonbeams festivals as well as Cropredy.


05/08/2023 Wickham Festival (Hants)

11/08/2023 Fairport’s Cropredy Convention

19/08/2023 FolkEast (Suffolk)

25/08/2023 Towersey Festival

16/09/2023 Driffield – Moonbeams Festival

21/10/2023 Middlesbrough – Little Theatre

28/10/2023 Aldeburgh – Jubilee Hall

01/11/2023 London – The Water Rats

02/11/2023 Leamington – Temperance

03/11/2023 Sheffield – The Greystones

04/11/2023 Lincoln – Southside

11/11/2023 Bury – The Met

12/11/2023 Saltaire – The Live Room @ Caroline Social Club

18/11/2023 Beverley – St Nicholas’ Church

25/11/2023 Newcastle – Cumberland Arms

02/12/2023 Salisbury – The Winchester Gate

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