Richard Buckner

Whenever I think of Richard Buckner's lack of recognition, I'm reminded of that Steve Earle line about Townes. You know, "I'd stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and declare that Townes Van Zandt is the greatest songwriter to have ever lived" or something like that. I'm not getting on anyone's coffee table, but I find it baffling that Buckner isn't mentioned among the greats. I guess it shouldn't come as a huge surprise, as many of my favorite songwriters still write (if they're still doing it) under the radar. Folks like Kenny Roby, Brent Best, Damien Jurado and Joe Pernice. I mean, these fellas can write songs right up there with Dylan, Springsteen, Woody and the rest.

Richard Buckner should be known. Widely. His debut, Bloomed (1994) is a masterpiece, while his follow-up, Devotion & Doubt (1997), is his masterstroke. That may be saying the same thing, but seriously, they're unbelievable records. Next came Since (1998) which rounded out a near-perfect trifecta, but it was The Hill (2000) that should have landed Buckner in the Rock & Roll and Country Hall of Fames on some sort of early ballot. Not because of The Hill itself necessarily, but the fact that the guy recorded four remarkable records to start his career. Yes, remarkable. And remarkable sounds like an understatement. Since its release, I've often cited Devotion & Doubt as my favorite record ever released. Ever. Yes, that includes Nebraska, Freewheelin' Bob, #1 Record and Still Feel Gone.

Let's just take a peek at Devotion & Doubt. On "Ed's Song" Buckner sings:

Tough is as she does
Won't you slump on over and stir my shuffle down
For once, devotion is enough
But the walk you whittle, another dream, another drink
Over in the basement, not an inch between
I'm yours and I have to leave

"Goodbye Rye" is that final drink with the lover you're leaving. Or maybe she's leaving you:

Once upon a blue thing or two
Eyes in sight, the moon confused
We heard the sparks fly and we watched our lies
Some died in retreat, some in jealousy

And then there's "Song of 27" which is quite simply one of the most beautiful songs ever written:

Though, I may be miles away from her
With years that pass without a word
I've never seen a moon so high
Her name hangs down from there tonight

So, put your little hand away
I've seen such needy days before
On nights like this, my hope returns
Though, I may be miles away from her

Okay, maybe I'm ready to stand on someone's coffee table. And those are just a few lines from a few songs. Buckner has about 100 incredible songs. His records post-2000 are a bit of a mixed bag, but heck, Nick Drake only released three (perfect) records before his early passing. Granted, Drake only started getting a little attention in the past decade or so, but it's time for people to discover Buckner. I rarely read Pitchfork anymore, but I'm going to go ahead and rank Buckner's records on their scale. And for the sake of someone's coffee table, please go buy his records.

Bloomed (1994) 9.6
Devotion & Doubt (1997) 10.0
Since (1998) 9.3
The Hill (2000) 9.8
Impasse (2002) 7.8
Dents and Shells (2004) 7.0
Meadow (2006) 8.0


Seth said...

Saw him in MA few weeks ago...fantastic. I can't wait for his new one to come is coming, right? Right, Merge?

andiwithani said...

i'm borderline obsessed & generally agree. however some of the moments on impasse, meadow, & dents raise them above "patchy" in spite of their patchiness