The road from Marysville
California’s Central Valley has provided a wellspring of incredible music and continues to do so. On one hand, indie rock was heavily influenced by bands like Stockton’s Pavement. On the other, the electrified country of “the Bakersfield sound,” particularly through its most famous exports, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, cast a huge shadow over country music’s output for years to come.
And somewhere between those two sounds is the resonant voice and poetic songwriting of Marysville-area native Richard Buckner.
Last weekend at the Palms in Winters, Buckner displayed why many consider him to be one of the most important songwriters of his generation. Using only an acoustic guitar (mostly a nylon string) and accompanied occasionally by opener Andrew DuPlantis (who has performed with Bob Mould and Meat Puppets) on bass and electric piano, Buckner wowed the small but devoted audience with a long set of beautifully crafted and emotionally effective songs that drew from each of his five full-length regular releases—from 1994’s Bloomed through 2002’s Impasse.
Buckner’s voice showed a resonant quality and country style that seemed to relate equally to both bluegrass pioneer Ralph Stanley and weird post-folk darling Will Oldham. That split is important to Buckner’s music, particularly in that he is, at least vocally, more a folk or country singer than a rocker. But, like similarly charged roots acts Lucinda Williams and Son Volt, Buckner has an audience that seems to come more from the indie-rock than the country-music camp, and, if the Palms show was any indication, that audience is completely devoted to Buckner’s music, bursting into spontaneous applause during song intros and during particularly moving moments throughout the night’s performance.
I also should note that this was my first time out to the Palms’ new location in Winters, and though it doesn’t have quite the same quirky vibe as the old location in Davis, it still has a good deal of character. The room is big and open, and an old stage set hangs on one wall (the Palms’ location once was the Winters Opera House). Particularly noteworthy, though, was the sound quality, which, for Buckner’s set, was top-notch. Buckner is famous for his poetic lyrics, and the Palms’ sound quality allowed each lyric to be heard and understood clearly and easily. One note: The room can be pretty cold. If it’s a brisk evening, bring a coat; you may be wearing it all evening!
Buckner is finishing up his new album in Austin, Texas. After that, he will be moving to New York to immediately begin recording his next album. Information, although out of date, can be found at www.richardbuckner.com. More information on the Palms’ excellent ongoing roots-music shows is at www.palmsplayhouse.com.
In other news, acoustic musicians and singer-songwriters take heed: The Mad Cow String Band wants you! Since St. Patrick’s Day last year, the band has been performing a regular Thursday-night slot at the Delta of Venus coffeehouse in Davis. The band is actively seeking musicians, bands and singer-songwriters of an acoustic persuasion to fill the opening slots at these shows. Interested parties should contact Alex Roth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local singer-songwriter Nolan will perform a benefit concert on Saturday, February 7, at the True Love Coffeehouse. Proceeds will benefit the medical bills of Dawn Arnold, who suffered serious neck injuries in an automobile accident late last year. (Dawn’s sister Angela appears on the cover of Nolan’s No Visible Scars CD.) More information at www.truelovesacto.com.