by Tim Potts
Singer-songwriter Richard Buckner doesn’t work a crowd. It’s pretty much out of the question that he will shout, “put your hands in the air” at any point during his living room show in Asheville on Sunday, Aug. 24.
There is also a good chance that the songs Buckner chooses to play won’t sound exactly like they do on his studio recordings. And, it may seem as if the musician has forgotten that there is even an audience out there at all. But that’s when he’s at his best. On North Carolina-based Merge Records‘ website, Buckner says of his living room performances, “I just show up with an acoustic guitar, find a chair and thumb-strum into thin air.” This description is over-simplified. Sure, he’ll be a guy in a chair with a guitar, but the “thin air” part is mesmerizing — like watching a medicine man or medium conduct a bizarre ritual and connect with the spirits. Or exorcise the demons.
Albums like The Hill, a solitary 35-minute track using words from Edgar Lee Master’s Spoon River Antholog, have pretty much guaranteed a lack of commercial success for Bucker. Because of that, he’s funded his musical addiction over the last 20 years by doing everything from working in bars to driving forklifts. A lack of interest in courting commercial success can lead to strained relationships with record companies as well as empty pockets — Buckner has been on several labels including a two-album stint on MCA whose acronym he claimed, after breaking with the company, stands for “Musical Career Assassins.” Fortunately, Buckner has shared a relationship with Merge since 2002. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of his first album, Bloomed, and Merge has re-released the recording in celebration.
Buckner’s Asheville show will be the last one on the East Coast before he begins the western leg of his tour, in support of the Bloomed reissue, in September. So, while it’s unlikely that the singer-songwriter will demand that anybody scream, his performance is guaranteed to be powerful, haunting and, best of all, true. Buckner’s music is perfect for the living room where intimacy equals intensity. Only 50 tickets are available for the Asheville show, held in a private home. The location will be disclosed when tickets are purchased.
WHO: Richard Buckner
WHERE: Living room show in Asheville area
WHEN: Sunday, Aug. 24, 8 p.m. $20. Tickets and info at undertowtickets.com/artist/richard-buckner