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Monday May 29, 2017
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Richard Buckner

 

continued

His debut album, Bloomed (1994), was his most direct and lovelorn. On Devotion + Doubt he slowed down, strummed softly, and whispered his lines as if he could hardly bear to sing them — to breathtaking dramatic effect. With Since (1998), the drama came from rousing, optimistic, full-band bursts that broke up the quiet moments. Then he turned less accessible. His attempt to rewrite Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology poems into one epic thirty-four-minute song (The Hill, 2000) was nobly literate but difficult, and on the aptly named Impasse (2002), his music shaded over from mysterious to obscure.

Thankfully, I saw Buckner on his current tour, and he was great. His bass-string-heavy fingerpicking patterns seemed even denser than usual, and I realized he was using a loop pedal to sample himself, then accompany himself, and then let the mesmerizing drone cycle and cycle. It drew me into his set, based heavily on his first and third albums. The occasional Impasse song and Hill snippet sounded stronger among the Since songs' determined energy. When he got to the chorus of "Blue and Wonder," the first track from his first album, it seemed as if he were rediscovering that it's okay to be clear and revealing, to break through:

Put your arms around me
And pull your mouth up to mine
And what's that word?
I forget sometimes
It's the one that means
The love has left your eyes

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