Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Joe Burke will release “Mystic, Immediately,” on Friday, his debut solo album. Richly textured with folk and indie rock flavors, the material goes beyond the typical strummy singer-songwriter fare many listeners have come to expect from solo singer-songwriters
“For me, it’s a lot of just playing around with chord progressions on guitar and piano and figuring out some melodies,” the West Pittston, Pa., native says of the process that birthed the record’s eight tracks.
Burke fleshed out the tunes with the help of producer Bret Alexander, who also played bass, electric guitar, banjo and mandolin, along with AJ Jump (drums) and Nyke Van Wyk (violin). He recorded at Alexander’s Saturation Acres studio, and the tracks were mastered by Alexander and Paul Smith at 8 Days a Week studios.
While it’s only Burke’s name on the album cover, he is generous in his praise for his musical comrades.
“My sense of what [Alexander] brought to it is an ability to bring things together that aren’t already together but also let the genre of the song define itself,” Burke said of the founding member and chief songwriter from Pennsylvania band The Badlees. “He has an incredible sense of not trying to trying to change probably what is meant to be, he just tries to help it get there.
“I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to work with him and have his influence in there, and I’d say the same thing about AJ. AJ has more of a fired-up approach, which is fun as well. He offered a lot of guidance. And then Nyk is world-class. I had heard that term thrown around for a while, and now I think I know what it means.”
Burke said he did not initially intend for the songs he was writing to work together as an album. He began recording in February and started releasing songs in August.
Influenced early on by his parents’ listening habits — The Beatles, Neil Young and Taylor among the favorites — in high school Burke became a fan of alternative bands like The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys. Some of his current “absolute favorites and definite influences” are Death Cab For Cutie, Lord Huron, Oasis, The Cure, Elliott Smith and Bombay Bicycle Club.
When Burke attended Fordham University in the Bronx, he played in a band called Senseless Sam and The Orangutans.
“That was indie rock, kind of guitar rock, more like a college band,” he says. “I think someone described it as ‘sloppy but elegant.’ It was a little more freeform.”
While there are obvious differences between the New York and Northeastern Pennsylvania markets, at least one thing is equal, in Burke’s estimation: the level of talent. He noted that his most-listened-to songs on Spotify in 2018 were by Tigers Jaw, The Badlees and The Menzingers, all bands with NEPA roots that found national success.
“The guys I got to work were right there in Northeastern Pa., and I’m nothing but amazed by the talent,” says Burke, who will play an album-release show at Karl Hall (57B N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) on Dec. 29, where he’ll be joined by Alexander.