There is no easy way to introduce the solo album from the lead guitarist of one of the most influential and popular Christian rock bands of all time. Tyler Burkum, formerly of Audio Adrenaline, enters new territory unfamiliar to musicians whose career had previously been judged solely by a group effort. While I could easily list the failures and successes of artists who have attempted this, it would not be fair to Burkum. Likewise, as other artists have forged solo careers seperate from their bands, their work cannot be based entirely on their band's work.
On Demo LP, Tyler presents ten stripped down, raw and intensely personal tracks. These demos are base in their presentation. While "Better Part of Me" and "Willow Tree" explore some of the influences from Beck's Sea Change, Tyler stays loyal to the intent of these serenades. "Hurricane," while almost a lullaby, maintains a simple guitar and vocal performance which is the standard, and not the exception, on Demo LP. "Better Part of Me" and "Carry You With Me" are songs about his wife and family as he is on the road or about to leave home. Vocally, the songs border on a sad and somber cry for understanding and forgiveness.
"California (I Wish I Was A Bird)" starts out promising, but the song finds itself repetitive as he repeats "California...Minnesota" near the end of the song. "Wrapped Around Your Finger," one of the happier tracks on the album, speaks to being captivated by the one you love. "I'm wrapped around your finger, wrapped your finger, but I'll think I'll linger for awhile, for awhile cause I don't mind..." are simple lyrics in their presentation, yet convey so many more things when directed towards a loved one. "You're On My Mind" sounds like it was written after a dream while on the road. This is one of the more powerful tracks lyrically and shows Tyler's vocal range with his borderline falsetto.
"We Are Jewels" is the closest Tyler gets to a worship song, yet strays so far from everything else on the album, making it seem out of place with the rest of the record. The last two songs, "Willow Tree" and "Blue As The Sky," are so brutally honest that they entertain the thought that Tyler is longing to be done with past projects ("Hold my tired and weary hand, my weary hand") and to move on to greener pastures alongside his soul mate. "Meet me at the willow tree my darling. Meet me in the fields so green my darling. Listen to the nightingale my darling." sound exquisite with the slide guitar and piano complimenting the emotional lyrics. "I am so weary from this heavy load. I am so tired I could cry. My burden's lifted, lifted up. Now I can hold my head high. I used to be as blue as the sky..." closes out the album with Burkum's absolution.
The one great thing about this record is that Burkum has not relied on the success of his former band as a stepping stone. This record is from the heart; and aesthetically and lyrically is totally different from any of his previous writings. Although the lyrics and music are honest to each other, and to Tyler, there is a lack of emotion in his voice. Whether that was intended to go along with the feel of the album is unknown, but I would not be surprised if that were the case. The one difficult thing is knowing whether his next album will be a repeat of the same kind of material, or if he progresses some of the areas he hints at here. It is obvious that Tyler has great talent as evident in his career with AudioA, but now that he is on his own, what will his mark be in the industry? More importantly, however, is what will this effort mean to those closest to him?- Review date: 6/25/07, written by Kevin Chamberlin
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