Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hearing Richard Buckner

Adam surprised me with a trip to Asheville this past weekend to hear singer-songwriter Richard Buckner. From his first album Bloomed to his latest one Meadow, his style has changed from alt-country to this more husky, slurred, indie-rock thing. The album The Hill, which is Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology set to music, is a pivotal album change for him. That album moved him from writing songs to writing songs with a lot more poem-like qualities such as doing away with choruses and de-emphasizing clarity.

One thing that struck me about his show was something that Adam said: “He’s just not going to give you what you want.”  True.  Buckner attempted no warm-n-fuzzy rapport. In fact, he didn’t say a single thing between songs, and at the end of the show we got a “thank you for coming,” and he up and left. Also, Buckner keeps reworking a lot of the old favorites so that if you happened to have loved a melody, too bad. And if you want that bit of clarity, you ain’t going to get it. All of this leads me to why I like—no—love him. I’ve often been struck with how not getting what I want has led to something better. 


Something happened right before we left for the show that reinforced this idea. We were eating dinner at my mother’s, and I notice on this side table full of framed photos some vaguely familiar color underneath two pictures as a way to raise them above the others. It’s my first book and the first journal that ever published me. (And, yes, those are her only copies.) Now, at one point in my life, I thought my writing would earn me my family’s respect. Once I started publishing, I was pissed at how little they seemed to care. Example: my books used as scaffolding devices. I later realized how it was actually a benefit that my family does not fawn over what I do one bit. That realization took away any sense of trying to accomplish something with my writing to impress them or prove myself. And that ended up taking some pressure off of writing and looking at the poem as simply what it is: a poem. And that’s the point with Buckner: it’s about the song and not what I want from it as a listener.  Now, I realize that saying “it’s about the song” is a bit idealistic and no guarantee that what follows is a good song. But the odds are in favor for it turning out that way.

Anyway, if you haven't heard him, here is a link to him singing "Blue and Wonder." It has some of my favorite lines of his: “What's that word? I forget sometimes. It's the one that means love has left your eyes....” 




  1. It's, "What's that word? I forget sometimes. It's the one that means love has left your eyes."

  2. I like how you've got those pictures up on the blog now. Fancy.