For the most part, lyrics are probably the least important element in a given musical mix for me. As long as quality instrumentation and melody are present, fair or average wordplay tends to leave little impression, but there are, of course, exceptions. Reading the lyric sheet to Richard Buckner’s Meadow is somewhat like dropping into the middle of a modernist novel, full of unassigned quotes and parenthetical asides. It doesn’t shed much light onto the cryptic musings that populate the conversational “Town” and “Canyon” –the former features the verse “Uncovered, too, trades are shown/ It’s how it is when everybody knows more than everything/ The dying ring, the passing line, the missing wing…/ Slip out late if it’s all the same”– but it does pin down the separate voices in Buckner’s dialogues. In keeping with the surreality of these tracks, the more straightforward numbers like “Before” maintain a dream-like haze where storytelling takes a backseat to modest, but picturesque poetics.
For musical accompaniment Buckner pulls out a number of alt. country sounds. The hard-charging riffs and rhythm on “Town” and “Spell” stretch out like sinuous strands of barbed wire, resembling the best in Son Volt’s early catalog. Riding both minor-chord melancholy and a worn-out optimistic drive, they practically command an autumn road trip be planned in their honor. Buckner also fashions loose, almost ambient melodies together that flicker like campfire light. There’s such a calmness and casualness to songs like “The Tether and the Tie” and “Mile” –which are gathered out of little more than two gentle guitar lines. Despite its moments of obtuseness, Meadow is ultimately a rewarding journey down a weary trail where only Richard Buckner could act as the guide.
Merge Records: www.mergerecords.com