Janise Kumar – muzic.net.nz, March 2018
Peruse through the gorgeous pages of Frank Burkitt’s storybook in Frank Burkitt Band’s latest album – a beautiful collection of narratives set to folk, jazz, blues and American roots essences.
Raconteur is the second full-length album from the band, who formed in Wellington during 2014 after Burkitt, and his partner Kara Filbey (who provides vocals, flute and percussion on the album) moved from Edinburgh. Making up the rest of the band are Cameron Burnell (on mandolin, tenor banjo, backing vocals) and James Geluk (double bass).
The storybook begins with Work So Hard; a bluesy song that has Burkitt painting a vivid scene of an encounter in a bar that inspired the wisdom of the chorus that sings ‘if you’re happy with a little, you don’t need to work so hard.’ Burkitt keeps the delivery simple; letting the opulence of his vocals drive the song and utilising twangs of the guitar and the gliding flute as reinforcement. It’s a song you’ll be humming to yourself for days after you first hear it.
The guitar gently leads us into second track, Simple, before Burkitt’s vocals and Geluk’s rich double bass tones billow in. The song once again has a perfectly-formed, harmonic chorus and shows the potency of the writing and arrangement of the album.
Albert Woodfox is a pleasant folk song that has wonderful banjo inflections and an endearing flute solo by Filbey. The song is bound by the syrupy vocal melody. It eases into the laidback, country track, Walkin’ Right, which Burkitt fills with a stunning delivery of his upper vocal-range. The song is about an eccentric guy that Burkitt often met at festivals in the UK; a guy who claims that his trousers belonged to Jim Morrison!
The ever-so sassy Too Much Noise begins to round out the album before final track, the unaccompanied ballad My Heart Waits. This incredible acapella number feels like an old Elvis-esque love song and makes for a splendid ending to a splendid album.
You will walk away from this album feeling a true connection to Burkitt – the sincerity and heart that emanates from his song writing is endearing, to say the least. I believe people who are truly great at their craft make what they do seem easy – and Raconteur has such a heartfelt simplicity – both lyrically and in composition. Yet, when you break down the fibres of the album, you will find superb moments of instrumental and melodic exquisiteness – outstanding accents of trills and lulls.
Graham Reid – eleswhere.co.nz, March 2018
Elsewhere has acknowledged this Edinburgh-born/Kiwi resident singer-songwriter previously and would say immediately that his up-front style of alt-folk-blues probably doesn’t suit the laid-back, cheers-‘bro mood of many in this country.
Burkitt often writes and sings songs of emotional power within the orbit of sometimes strident and uncomfortably real songs which locates them a long – and sometimes a very welcome long – way from all those benign and bland international surf/environmentally-friendly folkies who litter our musical landscape.
Burkitt has a strong voice and can sing seriously of fragmenting relationships rather than trying to be the New Age caring man, as on the excellent emotional schism of Simple, which is far from what the title suggests and looks at a break-up from the flawed but still valuable male perspective.
But Burkitt and band can do the gypsy-jive party mood. As on Paint the Town with a McCartney-like I Saw Her Standing There count-in “1-2-3-4” before the woozy ensemble comes in with trumpets and klezmer groove and funny lines like, “It’s time to accept that, George Clooney’s never gonna ring”.
The latter is live pub entertainment, the former is thinking stuff, and this album – as Burkitt flips the lyrical cards everywhere – moves between broken love (the emotionally naked and timeless a cappella closer My Heart Waits with lines like “your beauty will tarnish”) and narrative folk (The Gypsy Barber, the confidently delivered Albert Woodfox).
When Burkitt turns to affairs of the damaged heart or finds a metaphor in Nature (Breathe Slow) he is at his most engaging on record, but on the rest of this (Too Much Noise, another broken/anger song) he would be – live in a room of listeners – an entertainer delivering much to enjoy in the moment.
An album and artist – on the evidence of this album – of two halves.
The title track is exceptional.
Shannon Beynan – stuff.co.nz, Sept 2016
‘‘I was singing Sinatra when everyone else was listening to Led Zepplin.’’
Frank Burkitt is a Scottish charmer. He and his band blew through Lyttelton on Friday having played a gig in Barrytown on the West Coast the night before and a short show for the school kids in Murchison on the way over the hill.
The five-piece ‘acoustic soul’ band is led by Frank on guitar and vocals, backed vocally and percussively by his lady love of 13 years Kara Filbey, and supported by Krissy Jackson on fiddle, James Geluk double bass, and Cameron Dusty Burnell on mandolin.
They passed through on a ’’short little week long trip’’ around the South Island ahead of the release of a new EP, The Parade, next month.
Burkitt has been lucky in love and so doesn’t write songs about heartbreak and yearning. His songs are about anything but, and he credits a passion for the crooners in his teens for his ‘beautiful articulation’. A song about recycling was a hit in Barrytown the night before. ’’I was never into Stairway to Heaven as a teen. I was singing Sinatra when everyone else was listening to Led Zepplin.’’
It’s not easy, travelling around with four mates and all the instruments and band equipment in a white van.
‘‘We sleep on couches and floors, but people are lovely, so hospitable and friendly. New Zealand is a very easy country to tour and we get to do stuff we couldn’t afford to do.’’ He admits it’s ‘knackering’ for them all,’’ but we do it because we love it. You have to – you don’t do it for the money, you do it for the music.’’ All the band members have ‘day jobs’ but are obviously passionate about their music. And it shows.
A set with the band is like a trip through the top shelf of the best liquor cabinet – all malt whiskey and moonshine and sunlight. From a 1920’s Randy Newman southern blues piece about floods to an original haunting lullaby homage to West Coast glaciers, the sound is hauntingly reminiscent of places and memories of a long lost childhood.
Frank and his band live to tell stories and the music is a journey through old photo albums, dusty roads and the golden glow of long afternoons, interspersed with humour and wit.
The Frank Burkitt band is a tight-knit ensemble of power and delicacy and a rare treat. Despite the lack of the double bass on Friday night – ‘‘James is being very irresponsible and getting an education’’ – the sound is smooth, clean and bloody good fun.
Grab the album and the EP, and keep an eye out for Frank and his band next time they’re in town.
Take your folks, your kids, and your sense of humour.
Karin Vincent – Rogue Stage, Rotorua, Dec 2015
The Frank Burkitt Band played us a good selection of great originals and mouth watering covers by their favourite artists. Nina Simone’s ‘I wish’ sung so sweetly, it sent chills down my spine. The double bass in all its swinging glory, made a big impression on all of us! With an unexpected 360 degree turn, it had the crowd in high pitched crescendos of oooos and ahhhhs. Krissy’s violin and Dusty’s mandolin – what a pair! Warming up the stage perfectly, giving us a taster of the superb music to follow. Frank’s melodies and the vocal harmonies were sublime and did not disappoint. Each song carefully put together like a master craftsman would a table inlay. Cara, the apple of Frank’s eye, sang a few choruses solo, as well as Dusty and Krissy. Adding tremendous depth to the evening’s live music on offer. The most memorable were the songs from his homeland, Edinburgh. Describing the streets, the farewells, the small rural villages and culture of live and let live. In my mind’s eye, I went to the place behind Frank’s closed eyes, seeing the landscape he is describing in great detail. A must see if in a town near you!
Acoustic Routes, Wellington, Aug 2015
What an excellent night this was. We tried to line Frank up for a concert last year but couldn’t nail down a date and so we tried again this year and boy, I’m glad we did. I think Frank and his band are one of the classiest acts we’ve seen at Acoustic Routes for a while. His music is described as being heavily influenced by blues, country, bluegrass, swing and Scottish folk, and yes, we heard elements of all of those, not in any piecemeal fashion, but blended into a style that had the characteristics of a fine whisky, really.
Frank Burkitt has a smooth voice and guitar style, underpinned by a band that was right on the button in its tightness and timing. We would expect nothing less from mandolin player Dusty Burnell, who’s become a familiar and respected figure on the local music scene since he moved here from Taranaki. The band also has a first class fiddle player, Krissy Jackson and we heard some very hot stuff coming from fiddle and mandolin, with James Geluk’s double bass, providing the driving power underneath and some inventive melodic work at times, too. Kara Filbey enriched the songs with her lovely backing vocals. Frank’s own songs made up most of the repertoire and like the music, there was no lack of variety there, either. They included up tempo numbers with hot licks, as in “I Aint Going Home Tonight”; “Waste of Space”, about a sad character met on a Queenstown pub crawl; a sinister waltz about the devil; tongue in cheek songs about a fictional woman (“Big Val”) and an angry chicken; and the nostalgia of “Fare Thee Well Old Town”, about leaving Edinburgh.
Frank Burkitt and the band will be touring the country later this year after releasing their newly recorded album “Fools and Kings”. I’ll be in the queue for a copy.
Sam Loveridge – Second Hand News
Frank Burkitt is a songwriter hailing from Edinburgh who relocated to Wellington in 2014 forming a band of talented locals Cameron “Dusty” Burnell (Mandolin) Krissy Jackson (Fiddle) Kara Filbey (Backing Vocals and Percussion) and James Geluk (Double Bass) to back his American roots and Scottish folk styled songs. Krissy Jackson can be found playing with Albi and the Wolves occasionally, but most of her time is split between Burkitt and Hot Diggity. Dusty Burnell, probably New Zealand’s best mandolin player can be heard in his duo Kim & Dusty, or as the front man for The Federal String Band or as a player in the Hardcore Troubadours among many other bands.
The Frank Burkitt Band’s ‘Fools & Kings’ starts with a bang from first track, Waste of Space showcasing the bands strong sense of arrangement and melding of musical styles. The tune hits hard with strong contrast between the two refrains. The first refrain is more subdued with long notes, a lovely vocal harmony and a bouncy country bassline while the second introduces a rockier bassline and a repeated line sure to get punters singing along.
The soothing Rainbow Rose is up next, a tribute to a fishing boat from Burkitt’s hometown in Scotland. The song hinges on a very strong bridge which really lifts the setting of the songs lyrical imagery and adds busier rhythms to the mix too. The Prettiest Dame Around is a highlight with Frank Burkitts’ softer vocal delivery and a very pretty instrumental melody whistled in unison with clarinet.
Every song on ‘Fools & Kings’ is really well put together, from the writing to arrangement to performance, recording and engineering. The band really adds something to Burkitt’s songwriting which he may have been missing on earlier albums. There is something to be said for a permanent band to write, arrange and tour with. Produced with help from Graeme Woller (Into the East) there are folk musician’s names all over this album. Even better live, the band let loose and Burkitt brings his dry sense of humour and the stories behind each song. These are well worth hearing, you’ll fall out of your chair laughing at Big Val when you know a little more than the song lets on.
You can pick up a digital or physical copy from the bands bandcamp page.