Shakey Graves and Tre Burt ready for Summerfest in Colombia
Tré Burt is preparing to meet you.
Like most active artists, Sacramento-based songwriter experiences mixed emotions as he hoists his bags and guitar and hits the road after a long pandemic-induced hiatus. Some apprehension persists, he said, as the specter of live music is ripped off again.
But the involuntary layoff also “makes you more present, more grateful for what you have right now” in a way that was not possible before COVID-19, Burt said.
What Burt has right in front of him is a Summerfest date Friday at Rose Park, supporting Texan troubadour Shakey Graves. They are a well-matched pair, two artisans who blend in with their raw and relevant songs the most.
Burt enjoyed the return of live music last month, making his Newport Folk Festival start. Rhode Island Historic Event Turns Summer Songs Into Musical Traditions; “In my mind (the festival) has always been the stuff of dreams,” said Burt. The goodness of the moment did not escape him.
“It was sacred – it was sacred to be with these people and to feel the spirits there since the days of yore. I will never forget it,” he said.
Burt is also ready for you to meet him. And he thinks his upcoming album “You, Yeah, You” – released August 27 – is pure substance, a clear look at what matters most to him.
“I’m glad people see where I’m from,” he said.
Burt’s debut set, “Caught It From the Rye,” has been released twice – he released these songs in 2018, then Oh Boy Records, a label co-founded by the late John Prine, reissued them in 2020.
The record established Burt’s substantial style. His work is rooted in the best traditions of folk music but feels intuitive, as if he was writing it on the spot. Every crack and nook in Burt’s voice makes itself known as he sounds up and down action; you hear him put his shoulder into each strum.
After the re-release of his album and a few rare shows, the pandemic interrupted Burt’s momentum. For a while, he felt deprived of inspiration. An abundance of issues facing her native California and the country as a whole – fires, protests, police murders – have multiplied the weight of reality and silence.
Burt headed for a cabin last summer, sighing deeply and long into space. He wrote the majority of “You, Yeah, You” as well as the protest song “Under the Devil’s Knee”, released last year to Cornel West, during the getaway.
“It’s like my body is leaving me, and I finally grabbed it and said, ‘Where are you going?’ and I went back, ”he said.
Burt eventually continued these songs to North Carolina where, for the first time, he recorded with a producer – Brad Cook, whose credits include albums by Bruce Hornsby, Bon Iver and Waxahatchee.
Burt developed initial versions of these songs on a keyboard recommended by Bon Iver conductor Justin Vernon; admittedly, he went a little too far, stacking layer upon layer of sound. Cook discouraged him, to a sensation somewhere between the spare “Caught It From the Rye” and those exaggerated early arrangements.
“Brad is a wiser man than I am. He was like, ‘Now is not the time, man,'” said Burt.
Piano ripples, soft sound beds and percussive swings support Burt’s songwriting. This record is colorful and nuanced, never looking for something beyond its reach. In the material, Burt hears the beginnings of a beautiful bond between him and Cook.
“You also have to establish a relationship with the person,” Burt said. “So two things happened: there was a record going, and there was a friendship being made. And the record was only getting better as we got closer.”
The production on “You, Yeah, You” serves Burt’s articulate but unfussy sensibility. He strikes a chord, says what he came to say, then moves on. Describing an approach that favors instinct over intention, Burt invoked great artists like the Beatles and Prine, who understood the economics of songwriting.
Burt has learned a lot from Prine, who died last year – and continues to study at the foot of his songs.
“His songs come from such a deep well of the human soul. Every time you go to the well, you come out with something else,” he said.
Coexisting alongside Prine on the Oh Boy label, even for a short time, delivered some beautiful kinship moments. The august songwriter showed up unexpectedly at one of Burt’s concerts in Nashville, sitting close enough to touch him.
“He was making jokes, heckling a bit. I’m just trying to keep my calm, keep my calm, play the songs,” Burt said. “But yes, it was an out-of-body experience.”
Songwriters, like the rest of us, tune into all of their experiences. The deeper Burt gets into his lens, the more he looks like himself. He can’t wait for listeners to drop the needle on “You, Yeah, You” and go beyond just listening to his songs. He hopes they will hear it.
“I’ve been a bunch of things to people in such a short time – none that I didn’t feel connected with. The kid Prine or the kid who wrote ‘Devil’s Knee’,” Burt said. “But I feel like this record is just me. It’ll be like meeting people for the first time, in a way.”
The Friday show starts at 7 p.m. tickets cost $ 30. Visit https://rosemusichall.com/ for more details.
Aarik Danielsen is the News and Culture Editor for the Tribune. Contact him at [email protected] or by calling 573-815-1731.