American singer-songwriter Bud Buckley’s latest release proves that nuns know nothing.
When he was a kid in Catholic school, Buckley was put down and made to believe that he was musically marginal, but the late bloomer – who grew up to be a teacher himself, and was encouraged to persevere by his students when he tried guitar as a teaching gimmick – has proved the nuns wrong. He’s learned a thing or two about music along the way. Learned it is his calling. And he even got a little revenge on the nuns on his first album, with a composite character song called Sister Mary Confusing. He’s now making up for lost time, releasing his third CD and is starting to get airplay through North America.
So right there is another one of those life lessons in ignoring critics. I have a friend with a similar story – a teacher embarrassed him when he was eager to illustrate a class project, to which the teacher replied: “No Clayton, we want someone who can actually draw.” He’s now a graphic artist.
Same sort of thing happened to me as a kid. I wanted to be a comic book illustrator, but my parents said forget about it, you’ll make no money out of that. But now …. Now … well, I don’t draw any more at all, actually. I think I’m getting off track.
The point is that these new Bud Buckley tracks show someone who has worked hard at his craft and the payoff is something pretty and sweet and something that is pretty goddamn sweet.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have been a fan of the acoustic rocker for few years now and he has generously shared his embryonic lyrical ideas and in-progress worktapes on his website. The boy who was told by nuns that he couldn’t sing or play very well is developing into quite the in-demand working musician.
His vocal delivery reaches a whole new level on this six song EP and his composition and composure give the lyrics dramatic space. He’s kept the talented recording crew and studio band that made his second album, It’s About Time, a success.
His specialty of delivering what are essentially catchy love songs continues. The opening track, Frozen Shadows, is listed as being about “toward the end of a love campaign”. Early rough versions of that song had a Hunter S Thompson influence, but it’s been reworked (although it’s still a dark song – “You’re too far gone to come back home”) and is one of the stand-outs.
Even the sly protest tracks (#2 – A Way, in this case) that his inner hippy likes to sneak in are love songs at a fundamental level.
Move Me, Sit on the Wind and Go If You Want To are some very sweet ballads.
I sometimes get nervous when I see artists redoing songs that I already think are great. Jacob’s Hurricane, which made its first appearance on his first album (Feel My Love) reappears here. This was the song that got me hooked on Bud in the first place. A friend sent me a collection of .mp3s she liked and somewhere among those hundred or so songs, on came Jacob’s Hurricane and I immediately stopped what I was doing and just listened. I initially thought I’d discovered some lost Dylan piece. This powerful love song was written during a hurricane (Buckley lives in Florida) and was inspired by a couple of friends. “Jake heard there’s a hurricane coming and he should run for his life. He said “I got bigger problems. Something’s coming for my wife.” What does losing your worldly possessions mean when you’re losing the love of your life. His most poignant songs deal with mortality and the physical death of love.
I needn’t have worried. The new version is great. Electric guitar is replaced with electric violin thanks to the talents of Deni Bonet, an outstanding singer-songwriter in her own right. Backing vocals are added by Beth Reineke. And hey, if Dylan can have multiple reworkings of his renditions, then why not Bud.
It’s also good to see Helen Avakian again acting as album producer. She was the guitar teacher who encouraged him to get into performing and songwriting and recording in the first place. Avakian is an award-winning singer/songwriter/guitarist (check out her album Vanishing Point), and provides acoustic guitar and backing vocals on this EP. She also co-wrote A Way and has a big influence in her role as a mentor.
The only complaint I have about Sitting on the Wind is that the economic realities of recording an indy CD mean that Buckley could only produce a six song EP this time. It leaves you wanting more. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, I guess.