Richard Buckner – Meadow

Richard Buckner - MeadowRichard BucknerMeadow (Merge)

It goes without saying that the road of record companies is littered with talented artists unceremoniously dropped due to shifting priorities, exiting staff, and the most common career-killer: poor record sales. Richard Buckner knows about this, having been dropped from MCA Records immediately after he delivered, Since, his second album for them in what should have been a three album deal.

Thankfully, Buckner’s persevered and with the support of a few believing independent labels who’ve given him the freedom to grow and develop as a performer. Meadow, Buckner’s eighth album overall, continues to demonstrate his progression from an alt-country folkie towards a more well-rounded artist with a firm eye on the road that brought him here.

Restraint is the common denominator in many of the arrangements, with gentle strummed acoustic guitars, light electric flourishes and the occasional piano backdrops lifting Buckner’s voice throughout the album. The performances leave plenty of room for his weary baritone to bring the listener in; he manages to rebound from sounding drained to becoming elevated in the span of one verse. Again, the musicians (including Guided By Voices’ alumni Doug Gillard and Kevin March) provide Buckner’s voice with room to breathe while he examines the shadows and light of his words.

Which are stunning, by the way. Because of his subtle delivery, Buckner might have become one of America’s most treasured lyricists right under our noses. While he may seem to be fixated on curious wordplay at times, he always seems to pull them together at just the right moments. It may be easy to get tangled up in Buckner’s web of words (“not to say just another calling back”), but after a verse or two, you’ll find release (“nothing sees us as we drive out where we shouldn’t have”) and a deeper meaning.

Meadow subtly jumps around from traditional 4/4 rock structures to jangle-pop explorations while managing to maintain a clear view of what the song’s original blueprint was: a perfectly structured three minute gem, meticulously cut from a well-worn acoustic guitar. He finally succumbs to it on the last track “The Tether And The Tie,” with some soothing finger-picking on the same instrument that brought him his initial attention.

“It’s almost true,” Buckner sings on “Window,” “You don’t expect to fall / Watchin’ what you do.” He should know a thing or two about slipping, but as Meadow demonstrates, he’s landed on both feet and he continues to move ahead.

Even if you’re not familiar with the roads he’s already traveled, it’s a joy trying to catch up with him now.

MP3: Richard Buckner – “Town”

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