One cannot accuse Shauna Burns of predictability. Rather than satisfying her desire for a Christmas cover with something iconic and uber familiar, ala “O Come All Ye Faithful”, Burns opts on her latest album release A Winter Gathering for resurrecting the chestnut “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” to notable effect. This new single, Burns’ first since the re-imagining of “Scarborough Fair”, contains all of the trademark elements we’ve come to associate with Burns and her work, be it original songwriting or covers.
Shauna Burns is a recording artist who always endeavors to bring something deep from within to every new song and certainly succeeds here thanks to her ability to endow this song with all the requisite awe and spiritual overtones that it deserves. Her cover of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is a listening experience that will affect its intended audience, no matter what time of the year you decide to put it on.
The most obvious reason for its appeal is a mastery of fundamentals. Simply put, if you bring the right combination of skill, melody, and subject together, people will listen. The vocal, musicianship, and recording of this song is top shelf in every way. Burns’ singing is perfectly tailored to the lyrics and musical arrangement alike – she comes in at all the right places and takes a backseat to the instrumentation when the moment is right, but the relationship between the singing and music never feels out of balance for a second.
Celebrate With The Beautiful Voice of Shauna Burns
Her phrasing helps make more accessible lyrics that are a step removed from our modern lexicon, certainly less conversational, more formal. The intensely sensitive and human qualities of Burns’ voice are in full effect on “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. She takes the audience from surprisingly gritty turns to ethereal, near crystalline heights that accentuate the melodic strength of the performance.
Burns builds the arrangement around violin and piano. The piano has a gorgeous sound and strikes equally bright notes throughout the performance while the violin playing, however, pursues a moodier sound. The contrast in demeanor between these two instruments grabs your attention and brings extra drama to the recording. It wouldn’t necessarily be surprising to hear this song lacking an instrumental break of any duration, Burns’ isn’t one to highlight would-be virtuosic turns on an instrument just for the sake of it, but there is a fine break in this song when the violin playing really takes flight in a memorable way.
It is one of the highlights of what surely must be one of the finest songs on A Winter Gathering, capable of more than pleasing longtime fans and sure to draw new converts into her orbit. Shauna Burns has connected in a major way with her cover of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and it is sure to prove one of the highlights of this Christmas season.
Hear the full album on SPOTIFY
-review by Shannon Cowden