If there were ever a song that could double as a teleportation device, it’d be Sam Burchfield’s “Blue Ridge June.” This track, which appears on his album, Graveyard Flower, is unparalleled in its ability to construct a world solely through sonic elements.
For just over four minutes, Burchfield is the tour guide of Appalachia’s magnificence, presenting a beautiful, vivid homage to his home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains of South Carolina.
With vocals so full yet weightless, Burchfield takes flight with his listeners, soaring above mountains, in between trees, across babbling brooks, spinning nature’s beauty into succulent melodies. With a symphony of finger-plucked strings, Burchfield honors his folk, country, and bluegrass influences, creating a blissful ebb and flow which mirrors the tranquil qualities of the landscape he describes. And with a steady, soft thump of the bass drum and percussive claps, Burchfield provides the perfect meter with which to traverse the Blue Ridge trails on his homeward journey.
As these layers join in a beautiful marriage to form Burchfield’s detailed guidebook back to his roots, I can’t help but want to sink into the Appalachian soil with him. Perhaps it’s the infectious, carefree attitude inspired by the upbeat melody, or the timeless bliss inherent in the narrative-centric country-folk genre, but this song and the landscape it paints are so utterly enticing.
And while the connection Burchfield feels to his homeland is immensely personal, his decision to personify the landscape’s qualities through that of a woman only intensifies this connection and makes it more relatable for listeners.
Appalachian woman on my mind
Pick your flowers show me where to find, my song
Show me where to find
Daffodils remind me of your name
Heard you laugh in April like the rain coming down
In April like the rain
There is something beautiful in attributing the qualities of a location to a tangible, living, breathing entity. By singing about this “Appalachian woman,” Burchfield emphasizes that his connection to his homeland isn’t a passive bond, but an active love. Thus, as this woman guides and runs with him, it is really home which drives him.
In an interview with ArtsATL, Burchfield mentioned that his songs are often a place in which to funnel emotion, which in “Blue Ridge June’s” case, “is the emotion of home.”
Dreaming of the melodies
I will write for you
Blue Ridge June
Carve my heart in Carolina pine
When this song is understood in the context of Burchfield’s roots, it is apparent that the Blue Ridge mountains are not only his spur-of-the-moment inspiration for melodies, but a constant source of motivation to keep creating music. His roots are his guiding light. His heart is grounded in the very fabric of this world.
The optimism and heart of this song, while timeless, is also incredibly necessary for this current moment. An inherent side effect of a pandemic are the barriers placed on interaction—a dissolution of the ties that keep us human. So, to hear a serenade to one’s roots as intense and heart-filled as that presented in “Blue Ridge June,” feels like a reminder that life and the world, in all of its vivid beauty, still exists for us to explore.
So, for anyone in need of a moment of peace, a feeling of connection, or an escape into a natural utopia, listen to Burchfield’s love letter to nature, “Blue Ridge June.” It is truly a breath of fresh air.