Jonny Burke fortifies vivid vignettes with a poet’s eye (“Behind the Pine Curtain”) and an alchemist’s precision (“High Katie”). Exhibit A: Behind the Pine Curtain. The Central Texas songwriter’s excellent new acoustic collection, due out April 26th, deftly backs tongue-in-cheek narratives (“I Cut Off My Ankle Monitor to Be Here”) with Technicolor earworms (“Pipe Bomb Dream”). Time served in the Lone Star state’s penal system guides the journey. “The lyrical theme of the album was a conscious decision,” Burke says. “I wanted to explore all the events and circumstances surrounding that time and the people I was around while incarcerated.”
Behind the Pine Curtain, out on April 26th via Dream Car Records, delivers Burke’s trademark story songs over and again (“Last Time I Get Drunk in This House,” “Let Me Make It”). The songwriter aimed his ambitions high. “Before I went in, a friend joked that I could come out and make a prison record that even Steve Earle couldn’t touch,” he says. “I tried to stay away from looking like I was glamorizing anything about it though because there’s nothing fun or fashionable about being locked up. I want to try to forget that year as quickly as I can, but while the memories were still fresh I knew it would be important to document them if they came out in song form with any merit. If for nothing else than to remind me in the future to never end up back in that place.”
Burke mixes and matches blues and folk influences with a rock and roll heart throughout Behind the Pine Curtain, which is something he’s consistently done since forming the regionally popular Dedringers as a fifteen-year-old prodigy. The band grew their rabid following for seven years until an amicable split in 2009. Burke then spent three years living with a friend in Topanga Canyon, California, and became a fixture of the Los Angeles music scene during that time while opening national tours for Ryan Bingham and James McMurtry.
Today Glide is excited to premiere the colorfully named “I Cut Off My Ankle Monitor To Be Here.” Reminiscent of Todd Snider with a touch of Blaze Foley and plenty of Texas troubadour swagger, the song is a vivid retelling of a peculiar and precarious moment in Burke’s history. Backed by a fiddle-driven soundtrack of folk, Americana and acoustically strummed country-rock, Burke recounts one of his last free moments before going off to the big house. There is an element of dark humor to the song while also providing insight on an experience that would not normally make for a pleasant memory.
Burke shares his recollection of the events that led up to the song:
I wrote this song just before I went inside. In fact, I remember the day I wrote it was January 1st, New Year’s Day, 2018.
For the two years before that, since I picked up this last DWI charge, the judge ordered an ankle monitor on me. The ankle monitor is a huge fucking thing — it’s like a fucking scarlet letter….you know, anybody and every body can see it on you anywhere you go.
So right about the time I knew I was going to have to finally turn myself in — after being finally convicted, about two years later, the judge, beforehand said, ‘you gotta go get this thing off because you obviously don’t need it while you’re locked up in prison.’
That was right before New Year’s Day… I got that thing off. Then, I remember on New Year’s Day, I took a good amount of mushrooms and was finally able to find some humor in the whole ankle monitor thing. Obviously a lot of my friends had already been getting a kick out of me wearing a big honking ankle monitor thing all the time.
The song just kinda flowed out of me and I was able to put things into perspective — if only for a short amount of time — and write a song about the ankle monitor.