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When some singer-songwriters want to call attention to their lyrics, they pare away instrumentation to highlight the words. With Meadow, his eighth album, Richard Buckner takes the opposite tack. Backed by an impressive roster of Mekons and Guided by Voices alums, it features his fullest, most “rock” sound since, well, 1998’s Since. Doug Gillard’s propulsive guitar shimmers and swirls around Buckner’s deep, idiosyncratic vocals, while piano and organ lend shadow and relief to tracks like “Numbered,” “Before,” and the darkly atmospheric “Window.” Buckner’s voice has never sounded better; it’s lost its sepulchral, almost Appalachian quality, and mixed high enough to hear, a vocal like the one on “Mile” is tender in a way that the more mannered earlier work can’t match. As to what he’s singing about—who knows? Full of sly internal rhymes, assonance, and subtle plays on words, Buckner’s lyrics have always been equal parts artful and elliptical, but these take abstraction to a new level. When moments of clarity do arrive, their force startles: “Aren’t you cold? Standing by my window (curtained up and closed)”; “I’m taking you with me until we can’t take anymore. It’s what it’s for.”


Born: 1967 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

This husky-voiced country-folk singer/songwriter is very much in the mold of the Lubbock, Texas, school of mavericks, including Butch Hancock, Terry Allen, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Richard Buckner is actually based in San Francisco, but the Lubbock connection is no accident. His debut album, Bloomed, was recorded in Lubbock, for one thing, with producer Lloyd Maines, who has also worked with Hancock, Allen, Joe Ely, and Uncle Tupelo. Maines himself plays several instruments on the record, and Buckner's...
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