HIGHWAY BURNS - Dirt, Sand & Sleepless Nights

Highway Burns - Dirt, Sand & Sleepless Nights

10 songs
41:41 minutes
***** ****
Broken Life


Never really finding the time to write a review, I have been listening continuously for the last couple of days to Highway Burns’ debut album Dirt, Sand & Sleepless Nights, and the more time I spent with it, the more it grew on me. Who would have thought that Eastern Finland could come up with such a great country band? Founded in 2007, and sharing their home town Joensuu with Elškelšiset, the sextet soon after released a self-titled EP, but then took their time until finally this year their debut LP was ready. It’s sold as a vinyl record and can also be purchased as an MP3 download, but don’t expect a CD release.

It’s of course not easy to come up with anything groundbreaking in their chosen genre, so instead a young aspiring band has to make up that hurdle with songwriting, and that’s exactly where the Finns prevail. Let’s start with the opener Like Dylan, an up-tempo country rock song with an undeniable punk attitude, although they don’t try to emulate the sound of the Supersuckers, but rather stay in a purer country territory by using a lot of acoustic guitar. The vocals have the plaintive quality that make out a heartfelt country tune. The following My Heart My Soul is a moodier track with great harmonica parts and great harmonising between electric and acoustic guitar. Another song, another atmosphere sampled: this time we get a blazing trumpet on Knocking On Your Door which ultimately feels like an exulting mix of country, mariachi, folk and punk rock. From the fourth song on, the vocals are shared by a male and a female singer, adding even more variation to the music.

Most tracks on the record have a ballad foundation, but quite often the band escalates into more dramatic structures in order to give their listeners goosebumps. This can best be heard on the B-side’s opener Brother, a nearly seven minute epic that combines the best of Ween and Archer Prewitt, although a lot more of the best alternative country artists (16 Horsepower, Calexico, Clem Snide,…) have left their traces. But at no time, Highway Burns feel like a simple clone, instead they are performing as if they hadn’t done anything else throughout their lives.

Apart from having a stellar opener, Dirt, Sand & Sleepless Nights also has a great ending with the fast Youth Gone Blind, an incredible shared vocals romp with an infectious chorus that will leave you wanting for more. Thank you, Highway Burns for proving the world that brilliant alt country does not always have to come from the USA. Their perfect songwriting combined with their unquestionable authenticity make sure that you won’t want to listen to any other genre album any time soon!

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