Richard Buckner

Devotion and Doubt(Fontana/MCA 1997)

http://www.mediafire.com/?nnuzaerlwrm

Yeah, anyone can sing a sad song, but some folks are so bruised that theirs wrap their arms around you and suck every ounce of empathy and rapport one can have with lyrics and a chorus. Ultimately, this is a subjective crapshoot since I once found the Ink Spots to be the saddest outfit in the known universe while others may sink to the bottom of their well whenever muzak plays in the elevator. Therefore, the following sentiments will most likely be tacked onto any number of albums in my future, but something keeps me coming back to Richard Buckner’s Devotion and Doubt these days. It’s like watching a disaster occurring in slow-motion on a static-ridden television.

Sadly, it was released during a time when the world hatched a genre called alt-country and a flock of earnest souls channeled their favorite country singers through the prism of indie-rock, punk and folk. To be honest, I still love Neko Case, Robbie Fulks and the first Ryan Adams album, but those are momentary passions that fall fainter by the year. However, the voice of Richard Buckner never fails me. Sometimes the instrumentation plays it safe, but he always suckers me in when spins a yarn about lost chances and grievous errors. Devotion and Doubt is full of these, and his romanticism about slowly spinning down the drain is kind of spell-binding.

The opening lines of “Roll” speak volumes about his mindset as he sings “We can rent a car tomorrow/and roll through all the thoughts we keep/but we’ll just end up disheveled/and and acting like we both don’t know/but as I go down please take care.” It is a celebration of bad decisions, yet he captures the tragedy to be found in one who embraces and woos the error of his or her ways. “4 am” adds to the hubris as it opens with Buckner singing “It’s a bruised and fallen sky/pressed all up against us/and its just as true far away/but I can be there by breakfast/if I just drive through to you/so as the past goes breaking by/where are you tonight?” There is an element of optimism and good intention, but it is balanced then toppled by a sense of abandon and a revelation that this ain’t going to be good for anyone when all is said and done. Then again, Devotion and Doubt chronicles his divorce from his wife, so these things are to be expected.

In short, he continues the legacy of his Lubbox, Texas idols: Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Terry Allen and their spiritual neighbor Townes Van Zandt, but does so with bit more brooding, spit and polish. It is a meditation on accepting the last gasps of love and the awkward things we do to maintain a flame that has died a premature death.

California Dreaming

February 17, 2009

A musical ode to California

http://www.divshare.com/download/6573926-7ab

There was a thread on a message board which invited readers to suggest songs from the late 60s and early 70s that were devoted to the beatification of the state of California. This spun the hamster wheel that fuels my brain since there were so many odes to the apex and aftermath of free love and hallucinogens. Some of these songs embrace the innocence of bursting through social norms, others pay tribute to the majestic scenery of its cities and rural enclaves while others bemoan the loss of innocence in the wake of addiction and the realization that love is anything but free. Anyhow, I figured that I would share my contribution here. Here is the tracklisting that I intended, but somehow my upload rearranged its order. Anyway you slice it, it is still a delicious pie.

Sir Douglas Quintet-Menocino

Moby Grape-Hey Grandma

John Phillips-Topanga Canyon

Guy Clark-LA Freeway

Terry Melcher-Beverly Hills

Neil Young-Revolution Blues

Shirl Milete-Love Child

Robert Charlebois-California

Mickey Newbury-San Francisco Mable Joy

Michael Nesmith-Hollywood

Lee Hazlewood-LA LAdy

Laura Nyro-California Shoeshine Boys

Jim Ford-Working My Way to Los Angeles

Jack Nitzsche-Lower California

Jesse Colin Young-Ridgetop

Flatlanders-San Francisco Bay Blues

Flying Burrito Bros-Sin City

David Crosby-Tamalpais High(At about 3)

Terry Allen-Cortez Sail

Mickey Newbury-Frisco Depot

Terry Allen-Juarez

October 28, 2008

Terry Allen

Juarez (Fate 1975)

http://www.mediafire.com/?w93ibjujmni

It is a wonderful problem to have in this troublesome world, but sometimes it is hard to pick the next album for this lowly blog. Over the years, so many albums have wormed their way into my heart. Some have been my best friend at 4am when the whiskey wears thin and soothing sounds are required to ease me into the next day. Some are forever associated with moments of sheer ecstasy where life was absolutely electric. Others lack an association with a particular moment, but they still remind me of why I spend so much of my time listening to the albums which litter my home. There is a massive mental list of albums that I would like to share, but Terry Allen’s Juarez was always near the top of the list. However, a fella can’t give it all up on the first date, so you had to wait a few months before I slipped off my granny panties and revealed what is in store for you.

Terry Allen may be one of the most unsung voices in country music and Juarez, his debut album, might be the first I would grab if ordered to take one with into the next life.  He never received the same accolades as Lubbock, TX contemporaries like Butch Hancock, Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, but only the Flatlanders debut can match the brilliance of his opening salvo. Juarez is a concept album, but dispel all notions of Yes and ELP’s prog manifestos since this concept is noirish at its very core. It documents the dark tale of an alcoholic couple on a bender who get involved in murderous sojourn through a Southern California desert by way of Mexico. It is more than a great album, but a well-crafted story complete with spoken word interludes that introduce the characters in a colorful fashion. The story is the linchpin that draws you into the world of Sailor, Spanish Alice, Jabbo and Chick Blundy as they drink, fuck, get married, escape, the law, honeymoon and meet ther eventual demise. Each song is another step in a narrative about adventure, bad decisions, love and a surrender to impulse. I cannot think of another album that works so well as both a story and ode to the tragic nature of the outlaw in country music.

The best moments are the most sparse. When it is Just Terry Allen and a piano, it reminds me of Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush or Tonight’s the Night, but with less rock and roll at its core. “Cortez Sail” is the pinnacle of the album as it may be one of the most lonesome songs about leaving a town for a new beginning. A storm accompanies their departure and it serves as a metaphor for all of the shit that is about to go down, but amazingly shifts into a vivid description of the Aztec persepctive as Cortex arrived to conquer and colonize a foreign land. It is an odd juxtaposition, but one that truly spooks me to my core. When he yodels “Pachuco” it sends chills up my spine. Plus, any song that includes the lyrics “see how the lightning makes tracks in your air, tearing the clouds in and closing the tear, but you’re not surprised anymore, you’re going home” is ok with me. It foreshadows doom, but the protagonists are ok with their fate because their is a certain beauty to the idea of home.

If there is anything you cherrypick from this ramshackle collection of musings, please make Juarez your first destination. It is an album rarely cited as a classic, let alone mentioned outside of country aficionados and deserves much love and respect from all who encounter it.