Richard Buckner's latest LP, last year's Our Blood, felt at once like a direct descendent of the songwriter's best albums from the 1990s (Bloomed; Devotion + Doubt) and something blessedly different. No doubt, the story behind the recording was one reason for the latter; Our Blood had to be constructed three separate times due to a series of freak occurrences.
Indeed, pieced together from remnants of its own ghostly flesh, the final version of Our Blood is a testament to Buckner's skill both as songwriter and self-editor, a living, loving document that resonates in a way few records do. The album carries all the tortured mythos associated with the desert-fried song society Buckner is often associated with (see also: Giant Sand, Joe Henry), but it extends beyond genre and form.
It is a showing of maturity, too. Buckner's voice, always his most dangerous weapon, has been whittled from a blunt, unpredictable object into a sharp, pointed one. His lyrics, ever elusive, here paint abstract yet concise pictures of love and loss only made whole by the listener's mind. (Sample verse, from "Witness": "Panes we raised too low/ Sometimes it would get so cold/ Wake me like you used to/ Letting in the chill again/ Every now and then.")
Live, Buckner is both imposing and unassuming; his presence seems to oppose the delicacy of his delivery. Of course, his music is similarly dichotomous, an ongoing exercise in quiet force. His appearance at the fledgling, intimate 399 Meigs space is a true boon for Athens.