Monday, August 15, 2011

Richard Buckner - Our Blood

So, here's another great Richard Buckner album that nobody will hear. It's par for the course for this master of miserabilism, and probably provides grist for the creative mill. The fact is, I could listen to Buckner sing almost anything. His husky moan of a voice perfectly encapsulates the sound of a sleepless night, brooding over too many memories. But as his small but dedicated coterie of fans already knows, he's a very fine writer as well.

The backstory on Our Blood is both fascinating and grisly. Richard's treasured tape machine bit the dust, his apartment was burgled, and, I kid you not, a headless corpse was found in one of his burned out trucks. The girl, for those who have followed the story, left several albums back, and I don't know if the dog died.

At any rate, "I guess I'm the one they warned you about," he sings on "Confession," and the lyrics take on a chilling weight given the pre-recording history. The basic ingredients here -- strummed acoustic guitars, lap steel, gently brushed drums, the occasional wash of strings -- belie the intensity of the songs. This is a man who has lived through hell, and who wants to tell you about it, albeit in startling metaphors and evocative poetry. Opener "Traitor" finds Buckner doing what he does best, wrapping that supremely ragged, soulful voice around a tale of relational disintegration, of the center not holding, yet again:

You woke up too late, but know what they thought
While you were waiting for the strangers that had gone
Somewhere to stay together apart,
Where everyone traded as they faded in the dark,
Caught in the lights they couldn't show through
And just beyond they'd always know you
Would give it away, even as dust
Falling just out of frame, leaving everything untouched

Buckner threw away a big-label contract to record a batch of songs based on Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, and his best-selling album (Devotion + Doubt) sold a whopping 27,000 units, and was recorded fifteen years ago. He's probably given up the big dream long ago, and he just keeps on recording one stellar album after another. He'll be coming to a dingy dive near you soon. If you get the chance, you should see him.


Jeff K. said...

I saw Buckner "play" six or so years ago in Eugene. After an eternal opening act (can't even remember who), Richard sauntered on to stage and started fiddling with his instruments. He sort of started a sound check, got frustrated with the sound guy, cursed at all of us, and left...not to be seen again that night. Classy guy.

Andy Whitman said...

Jeff, I can understand why that would color your take on the guy. I've only seen him play live once, and he was great; fully involved with the music, and displaying occasional flashes (that's the best you're going to get with a miserabilist) of humor. His recorded output is also great, including his new album. And you don't have to encounter him in person.

cnb said...

I've loved Buckner's music since I first discovered him on his Devotion + Doubt tour. I've seen him play live six or seven times; sometimes he has been great; sometimes pretty terrible. (I've never seen him walk off without playing, but hearing that he has done so does not really surprise me.)

His last few records have not made a great impression on me. His best to date was, I believe, Since. This is the first I've heard of this new album, and I'm going to buy it pronto. Thanks for the tip.

cnb said...

Andy, do you know if the CD booklet for this new album includes the words of the songs? I expect not, but I'd like to know for sure before I decide which "medium" to buy.

notesandbeats said...

I saw him with about 100 people near Boston about 7 years ago. Abusrd that there were so few to see him. Reminds me of Mark Eitzel in that way. How the hell is he not more popular? He is a pain in the ass on stage, just like Buckner. Gets agitated at the least disruption.

Jeff K. said...

Andy, don't get me wrong. I may not like the guy, but I've had a deep appreciation for his music since someone put "Blue and Wonder" on a mix many years ago. Jerks can make great music.

Andy Whitman said...

Craig, in answer to your lyrics question, I don't know. I have the MP3 advance version of the album, which is, umm, lacking in visual cues.

cnb said...

Ah, is that how advance copies are circulated now? I suppose it helps with the clutter around the house -- or condo.

He usually doesn't print the words, so I would guess that he does not do so on this record either. It's a pity, really, because he is a great wordsmith, but does not always enunciate clearly.

Anonymous said...

I saw Buckner in Tucson (in 2000, I bellieve) sharing the stage with Alejandro Escovedo and members of Wilco/Son Volt as a backing band. Pretty great. However, Buckner treated the female bartender rather badly when she didn't get him his beer as quickly as he would have liked. I happened to be sitting at the bar when it happened. Buckner turned to me after he got his beer and muttered the words f**king c**t. Not very nice.