Richard Buckner | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Richard Buckner 

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Richard Buckner seems unable to write songs unless his heart is broken, and on records he can come across as a self-loathing sad sack--tres romantique, eh? His new album, Impasse (Overcoat), chronicles the dissolution of his marriage to Penny Jo Buckner, a breakup rendered all the more poignant by the fact that she stuck around long enough to play drums on the songs. Buckner increasingly places more stock in how his words sound than in what they mean. The lyrics make little if any sense when read and become only marginally more coherent when he sings them. He occasionally stumbles upon a lucid phrase like "Trust me, I know where I am / But how many turnarounds can you stand?" (from "Born Into Giving It Up"), but more often words come in neat-sounding but tangled clumps like "Dusty from the talk, stalled and wired" or "The shedding to the rise, the portal and the cost." Still, this is Buckner's most accessible work since his 1996 debut, Bloomed. He played all of the instruments besides drums and also produced the album, fashioning a twangy, ambling folk rock. His melodies, many recycled from his earlier work, rarely coalesce into fully formed songs, spurting instead in a ragged style that suits the journal-like tone of the lyrics before ebbing into the spare instrumental backup. For these shows Buckner will perform solo--a setting that sometimes encourages his most self-indulgent tendencies, so keep your fingers crossed. Bobby Bare Jr. opens. Friday and Saturday, November 22 and 23, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.

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

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