Richard Buckner | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Richard Buckner 

When bands like the Replacements, R.E.M., the Minutemen, and the Meat Puppets transplanted punk aesthetics into music well beyond punk's limiting boundaries, they planted the seeds that nearly a decade later have blossomed into the current success of rootsy bands like the Jayhawks, Wilco, and Bottle Rockets. With his superb debut, Bloomed (Dejadisc), as startling proof, Richard Buckner just might be the finest singer-songwriter to emerge from this postpunk diaspora. Although Buckner's album was recorded in Lubbock, Texas, with folks like Butch Hancock and producer Lloyd Maines, he's actually from San Francisco, where he fronts a band called the Doubters--in this new countryish movement you don't have to be a country boy or from the south to revel in restrained, twangy beauty. Buckner's songs may be soaked in abject depression--to the point that the lovelorn narrator of "22" opts for a hasty suicide--but he navigates emotional extremes with an impressively sure hand, neither overwrought nor matter of fact. Although his gorgeously dusky voice recalls a less good-timey Dwight Yoakam, Gram Parsons is Buckner's obvious point of reference. With his expressive, authoritative, yet slightly quavery voice, he exudes reflective melancholy and opens a vast catalog of bitter memories: "This is where we sat / And this is where we kissed / This is where you yelled / At the MUNI we missed / This is where I think of / The peace that we had / This is where things start going bad" from "This Is Where." If Richard Buckner redeems the promise he's put a deposit on with this album, he'll be tearing out hearts for a long time to come. He opens for Austin singer-songwriter Michael Fracasso, who was just in town with Hamilton Pool. Friday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Tom Erickson.

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