Richard Buckner 

Dents and Shells

Exceedingly moody singer-songwriter Richard Buckner has come a long way from his days with SF's the Doubters, an early-'90s slightly-ahead-of-the-curve Americana band. With his latest solo opus, he (kind of) embraces that roots-rockin' legacy, as Dents and Shells is a tad fuller and more up-tempo than a lot of his recorded output. But fear not, Buckner fans: The results are still saturnine and brooding enough that you'll want to slap Neil Young's Tonight's the Night or Nick Drake into your home sound-system to lively up yourself afterward.

For his palette here, Buckner uses guitars (gently strummed acoustic, twanging electric, lonesome and mournful pedal steel), dobro, embellishing piano and organ, bass, and solid, no-frills drumming. The only exception is the closer, "As the Waves Will Always Roll," where turbulent drums and Syd Barrett-lysergic electric guitar evoke the crashing waves of titanic bereavement (Was there something that I made and never gave to you?). At times the songs have an eerie, stark resignation (happy endings are rare), especially with Buckner's velvety-muted, ruminating voice practically caressing the lyrics, almost as if he were across the table from you at a bar and didn't want strangers to overhear. For articulate, haunted heartland angst, Dents is hard to beat, but I'm hoping Buckner is paying mind to those Zoloft and Wellbutrin TV commercials.

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