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Richard Buckner tells us a Story!

Richard Buckner tells us a Story! Welcome. I’m pleased to announce a series of performance dates based on Merge’s digital releases of three of my earlier records, “Bloomed”, “The Hill” and “Impasse”. “Bloomed” was originally (erroneously?) released on an unnamable German label in 1994.  I was living in San Francisco at the time, having just moved out of a residential hotel and into the 1906 hilltop prefab that adorns the cover.  At the time, I was heading a band called “The Doubters”.  We were playing high profile events such as The Covered Wagon Saloon’s Musical Barstools, but weren’t making much headway.  We had been turned down consistently every year by SXSW, but I was somehow finagled in as an unannounced guest onto an already unofficial SXSW showcase created by Butch Hancock at his gallery in downtown Austin.  There, I met up with Lloyd Maines, who agreed to produce my first record.

Welcome.

I’m pleased to announce a series of performance dates based on Merge’s digital releases of three of my earlier records, “Bloomed”, “The Hill” and “Impasse”.

“Bloomed” was originally (erroneously?) released on an unnamable German label in 1994.  I was living in San Francisco at the time, having just moved out of a residential hotel and into the 1906 hilltop prefab that adorns the cover.  At the time, I was heading a band called “The Doubters”.  We were playing high profile events such as The Covered Wagon Saloon’s Musical Barstools, but weren’t making much headway.  We had been turned down consistently every year by SXSW, but I was somehow finagled in as an unannounced guest onto an already unofficial SXSW showcase created by Butch Hancock at his gallery in downtown Austin.  There, I met up with Lloyd Maines, who agreed to produce my first record. We met in Lubbo  ck, TX a few months later, where we worked in a small recording studio walled in wooden shingles Sharpied with bible passages from various church groups that also enjoyed working there.  It was 112 degrees F the morning I arrived under the suspicious (Californians are merely B-grade yankees) gaze of downtown’s Buddy Holly statue.  That first night there, it hailed so hard that heaven’s angry pellets were storming in under my hotel door.  It only let up for a few moments that first night, allowing me to run across the street to get a butter burger and fries to go.   We finished four days later and I flew back to San Francisco, dismembered the band and embarked on a tour that would last about 15 years (or a few days, if you count what I actually remember).


A couple of years later, I was on a slow burner to Tucson to begin recording songs with JD Foster that would eventually become “Devotion & Doubt” (out-of-print 1996 on the now-defunct Musician Career Assassin lab  el).  With a week to kill and nowhere to go, I drove east from Bakersfield and ended up near the mouth of Death Valley at a place called The Ranch Olancha Motel (on the 395 between Lone Pine and Dunmovin).  Originally, there were two hunting cabins along a desert landing strip built by Howard Hughes, but about 40 years later someone converted a few other buildings into sleeping quarters and called it a motel.  I checked into one that had previously been half of a garage.  There was no phone and no TV, so I checked in for a week.  I was traveling with a guitar, a four-track recorder and a copy of Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology,” and spent the week doodling with the poems onto a cassette.  At the end of the week, I put the tape in my glove compartment and headed south to begin constructing the second nail in my coffin.

About four years later, I found myself in Alberta with writer’s block about halfway down a list of various other dysfunctions.  I had started a record earlier that year and failed and I was looking for a distraction. A future-ex found the Ranch Olancha cassette in my truck.  I had forgotten about it, but after listening to it again, thought that maybe it was the distraction I was looking for.  So, I rented an office space in a soon-to-be demolished medical building in downtown Edmonton and set up a studio with a 16-track mini-disc recorder, an E-Bow and a couple of guitars and keyboards.  A few months later I drove back to Tucson to re-record about half of the songs in a real recording studio with Joey Burns and Johnny Convertino, one of the finest rhythm sections in musicdom.  I gave them a handicap, though, that they couldn’t use the traditional bass and drums setup, so Joey played cello and Johnny ran around the room using various hand percussion instruments and such.  The result was “The Hill”.  I, or  iginally, released it in 2000 as a one-track recording of eighteen songs smeared into one another.  My thought, at the time, was to have the listener read the poems along with the music as one piece, since some of the characters in the book belong next to each other, story-wise.  My demands have lowered with age, though, and the digital re-release on Merge is indexed song by song.

With sales of “The Hill” rocketing into the dozens (half-hour song cycles based on 100-year-old poems generally don’t breach the top 40 niche), I headed back to Edmonton to reattempt an earlier failure.  I set up shop in the basement of my house with a live-in drummer and a number of cats.  Somewhere between tours of the lower 48 and ice hikes to The Black Dog in the Fog, “Impasse” was finally completed and released in 2002.

“Bloomed”, “The Hill” and “Impasse” will be re-released digitally in March 09.

As for the future, Merge and I are currently completing a new contract for the 2010 release of a new record.  The negotiations are being held up, though, by our lawyers.  Evidently, there are a few kinks based on something called “The BBQ Clause”  There is a “use of sauce” stipulation that has yet to be worked out (Porky vs. Supreme Court, 1873).  The lawyers meet after midnight in black, hooded robes under an 18th century oil painting of a smiling pig while medieval fugues played on dobro fill a cavernous KOA campground lean-to.  They are hammering out the details, though, between heated debates on the hopeful additions of shrimp and grits and possibly even mac and cheese.  These are matters of pride and hunger, and some things just cannot be watered down with Dixie Beer and legalese.

Thank you.  Come again.