So, it's come to the 8th installment in the musical career of
Mr. Richard Buckner, songwriter extraordinaire. Buckner's
latest release, Meadow, is jam packed with the kind of
introspective lyrics and dense sonic signature that fans have
come to expect from the man who just might be the modern world's
greatest bard. Meadow sees Buckner reacquainted with some
of his old cohorts, including Doug Gillard (Guided By
Voices) and J.D. Foster, who recorded the record as
well as played on it. The character of Meadow is instantly
familiar to long-time Buckner listeners, as J.D. Foster produced
the record, and so the sound is similar to the thick sounds found
on the classics Since and Devotion + Doubt.
A return to form of sorts, Meadow is filled with dark
modern folk songs about traveling and exploration, revealing the
once more restless spirit of Richard Buckner. "Town"
begins the record in bright noisy fashion, featuring hooky guitars
and Buckner's gravelly baritone turning in a fine performance.
The song sets the stage for the movement of the record, speaking
of a man plagued with the need to move, and so the journey begins.
"Lucky" feels like Impasse era Buckner - the
song is filled with chugging guitars, groovy basslines, and a
weird far-off vocal sound that really accentuates the distance
felt by the wanderer. The music is classic Buckner, attitude and
sound, and the lyrics work their way around inside the listener's
head the way that those older tracks did; they just get stuck
there, forever contemplating their meaning and how it applies
to one's own life.
The first acoustic guitars of the album arrive on "Mile".
This song is a fast reminder of just how deep and resonant Buckner's
voice can be while spinning its tales of lost souls. Set against
the sparseness of dueling acoustic/electric guitars, Buckner's
voice is a comfortable blanket that wraps around my heart, lulling
me into peaceful rest while compelling me to listen more closely
to the story that unravels. Doug Gillard's guitar flourishes are
here at their most auspicious, propping up the air of sobriety
and fading hope that the song presents. "Window" is
filled with shuffling beats and grungy guitars that nicely offset
the electric pianos and hallway vocals, creating an atmosphere
and tension that is hard to pin down and explain. "Kingdom"
rolls along lively, with the first real glimpse of hope since
the album's beginning, brighter and more promising than other
tracks here. This song is a perfect example of how Buckner can
orchestrate simple guitar/bass/drums into a symphony of intricate
layers that play off each other perfectly. The arrangement is
amazing and his voice has a lifting feeling among the trembling
guitars that hints at heaven.
The dirgey piano of "Numbered" mixed with the weirdly
slipping drums creates the perfect backdrop for Buckner's intense
vocal melodies and dreary storytelling. "Spell" lifts
the dreary veil once more, moving things up a notch tempo-wise
and allowing Buckner's amazing voice to sail in the open air with
a tranquil and almost relaxed feeling. Closing out the record
is another acoustic number called "The Tether And The Tie".
This song almost doesn't fit with the aural density of the rest
of the record, the tone is brighter and the song is almost all
delicately fingerpicked acoustic guitar balanced by a bit of electric
piano and gently strummed distortion. The track is classically
beautiful and reaffirms Buckner's ability to play intricate guitar
arpeggios while creating a mood and lyric of incredible depth
a song akin to those from Paul Simon's early days.
"Man, I was high, stepping out on goodbyes unspoken/ And
once in a while, I'd stumble out into the open/ true, I wasn't
all I thought I'd be given some of the timing/ and none of it
" Buckner's lyrics are as enigmatic and troubling
as they've ever been, filled with a loneliness and questing that
few singers can match. The songs on Meadow all fall right
around 3 minutes in length, making for what could be considered
a perfect pop album, were it not for the darkness and depth found
in these songs. This album contains all the things we've come
to expect from Buckner - great dark music and lyrics that have
a timeless quality - one that stands them easily next to traditional
American folk music in their quality and importance. Hopefully
this record will finally be the wake-up call that the world needs
to take notice and give props to this amazing writer, placing
him on that top shelf next to the greats like Dylan, Young,
10. The Tether And The Tie
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