Richard Buckner The Hill (Overcoat)

The Hill (Overcoat)

Richard Buckner

The Hill (Overcoat)

Northern California native Richard Buckner's fourth album is an unwitting collaboration of sorts between the uncompromising singer-songwriter and Edgar Lee Masters. For The Hill, Buckner took pieces from Masters' Spoon River Anthology, set them to music, and strung them together into one complete thought, if you will, in 18 parts; the completeness is pretty literal as the CD is formatted as just one track. Like most of Buckner's material, The Hill is stripped bare, recorded without drums or bass, only this time the adorning textures added by frequent co-collaborators Joey Burns and John Convertino of Calexico are far more haunting and unnerving than on any of the songwriter's three previous outings. The weighty material sounds appropriately distressed, Buckner's grizzled voice carrying even less warmth than usual, but sometimes the disc's artfulness infringes upon the aesthetics and The Hill seems more about serving the concept than the listener. Then again, none of Buckner's previous albums ever gave much thought to making the listening experience easy. Maybe it's just that musical despair is more palatable in discreet four-minute intervals than all at once. Still, The Hill has enough moments of radiant emotion that it survives its own flaws well.

***

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