Album Review: Bud Buckley, Sitting on the Wind (EP)

March 26, 2010

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.


#14: Don’t –

March 23, 2010

Combine chicken soup and technology.

I mean, chicken soup’s fine on its own. Technology is fine on its own.
But when the two meet, it always ends in heartbreak. Sort of similar to when toilet bowls and technology meet. Or when tumble dryers/washing machines and technology meet.

So to recap:

Work bag
+ chicken soup in container
– dodgy lid
+ digital dictaphone with hundreds of unbacked-up snippets of song ideas
= 😦

Lady Gaga, The Monster Ball Tour, Vector Arena, March 14th, 2010

March 16, 2010

Sure, I could distance myself and hide behind the old “I only got the tickets because they were a present for my wife for her birthday” line. Just like the time I bought that Justin Timberlake album for her because I secretly wanted to listen to it myself.

But I’m not afraid to admit that I like Lady Gaga. Heck I’d even like to love her. Long time. Unless those comments about her being a transvestite are true. In which case I’d probably have to think about it a little bit more first.

But I don’t need to second guess how much I loved her Monster Ball gig. It was more pop opera than rock concert and would easily have been at home on Broadway, or perhaps Old Soho, being part stage show, part fashion show. Part strip show.

It was seeing the video Bad Romance on TV turned me around on Lady Gaga. The song is a lesson in catchy 119 bpm composition and the video is a work of art in its own right. I wasn’t familiar with much of her work beyond that and her other hit singles, but it didn’t matter. This was as much of a visual experience as it was an aural one.

Part of that experience was crowd-watching and checking out those who had dressed up Gaga-style (mostly with blonde wigs and Bowie-lightning-bolts on their faces, although a couple of guys went as white Lycra-wrapped characters from her video).

There was a few minutes of waiting and watching her silhouette before the stage curtains went up and she launched into her opening song, Dance in the Dark, for her second Auckland appearance.

“This is our second date, New Zealand. So you know what that means: I can go down and suck your dick without feeling like a slut!”

Those parents who took their 8-year-olds along would have been left slapping their foreheads and questioning their own wisdom.
There was also a lot of Michael Jackson-esque self-touching from her and her backing dancers, which I guess was to be expected given his music was playing during the hour it took to set up her stage following the opening act.

The show revolved around a very basic storyline about getting her friends to the monster ball. Hardly an award-winning plot, but it did provide the vehicle to tie together the music, the moves, the moods and the costumes.

“Tonight, the freaks are all outside and we’ve locked the door!”
Cue squeals and screams of delight. The crowd was hers. Her show(wo)manship was tight. Like her costumes.

I lost count, but the newspapers say she had 16 changes. They were pretty amazing, although they did screw with the show’s momentum near the end as she got down to one garment per song.

But this show was also about the musician behind her larger-than-reality neo-glam persona. She first briefly showed her skills early when the hood of a car on stage was opened to reveal a piano, but she really got to reveal her chops and her musical range when she later slowed down to belt out the ballads of Brown Eyes and Speechless. She was on fire. And her piano literally was, as part of a special prop effect. I also noticed how her dance trade mark monster claw resembled the shape her hand makes during certain piano chords.

Did she make it to the Monster Ball? I guess so. She lost her friends along the way and got attacked by a large anglofish-type puppet monster but survived to follow-up Pokerface and Paparazzi with the perfect finale, Bad Romance.

Then it was time for the group bow, curtains down, lights on, show over, Gaga gone.

I was left on such a high that I didn’t even mind so much when I got to my car and discovered a $40 parking ticket thanks to a parking sign that was even more ambiguous than the lead singer of the opening act, Semi Precious Weapons. Actually, I liked their music. Weird. Camp. Dressed in drag. A fitting opening act, perhaps.