It’s been a decade since singer-songwriter Aaron Burdett left the High Country and settled down in the Saluda area of Polk County in western North Carolina.
In that time, he has gotten married, performed numerous live shows, recorded four studio albums and conducted a number of “pub tours” of the United Kingdom.
Burdett’s fourth studio album, “Breathing Underwater,” was released last year. Having been dubbed a “songwriter’s songwriter,” after the release of his third album, could have put undue pressure on Burdett, but you’d never know it listening to the natural sounding, fully formed tunes on the new album.
“I’ve actually recorded more than four albums, but this is my fourth ‘shrink-wrapped’ album,” Burdett said. “I raised $9,000 through the website, Kickstarter, and we recorded it in April and May of this year at Hollow Reed Studio in Asheville. It’s a little different than my other albums in that we recorded me playing guitar and singing at the same time. Before we recorded them separately. This is more accurate to what we do live. It was a more natural process for me. I don’t have the muscle memory to do the two things separately and do them like I naturally do them.”
Burdett said the process led to the vocal tracks and guitar tracks bleeding over into each other.
“It kept us from having the luxury of fixing things in the mix, but I like the result,” he said.
Burdett’s trademarks of strong songwriting, heartfelt lyrics and intricate guitar playing are present and accounted for in “Breathing Underwater.” On the album, Burdett is joined by longtime bandmates Will Jernigan on upright bass and Billy Seawell on drums. Musical guests on the album include Andy Pond on banjo, Brian Swenk on banjo, Casey Driessen on fiddle and Chris Rossen on keyboards.
Songs, such as “Magpie” and “Feels Like Home to Me,” have the well-worn feeling of songs that have been around a while, even though Burdett wrote them and recorded them in the past year.
The title track finds Burdett picking up the electric guitar and delving into a slow-burning bluesy rocker.
One of the best things about “Breathing Underwater” is how well all of the players mesh and play off of each other’s rhythms. The core trio and its foursome of guest musicians are all veterans of the Asheville acoustic music scene, with Burdett, Pond, Seawell and Swenk having lived and played in Boone for several years.
The album, with its original songs and big acoustic sound, is also perfect fare for WNCW-FM, the radio station located on the campus of Isothermal Community College in Spindale.
“I’ve been blessed to have WNCW on my side,” Burdett said. “They have played a wide range of tracks from the new album, (and) I think that speaks to the quality of all the tunes. It’s still magical to me when I hear one of my songs being played on the radio.”
Burdett sites songwriters, such as John Hyatt and John Prine, as being influences when he was learning his craft.
“John Hyatt is such an original,” Burdett said. “His voice is so unique, and his songs have such strong hooks to them. When I was younger, I was fascinated by the way David Wilcox was able to tell a story with his songs.”
On “Breathing Underwater” Burdett has found his own unique voice and is telling his own personal stories.
“Breathing Underwater” is highly recommended for fans of Darrell Scott, Acoustic Syndicate or Railroad Earth.