Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The first time that Richard Buckner visited our Horseshack was a brief and unrecorded moment in time. There's no proof of it, just recollections of an encounter that was so peculiar and unclear. He walked into the studio just after breakfast, some time after his tourmates Six Parts Seven had arrived and had begun setting up their equipment in the tracking room. Buckner traveled separately to the studio, in his pick-up truck, and looked like a man who'd had a difficult night of heavy drinking and sleeplessness. One suspects that the truck had been his bed, if he'd gotten any sleep at all. It's just one way of saying that the man looked rough. So, he came in, looked very briefly into the room - never actually stepping inside it, told us that he was going to go back down to the truck to get his guitar and that was the we ever saw or heard from him that day. He was gone, off to Chicago we presumed, where he was playing later that night. He didn't answer his phone and there were no excuses forthcoming, but we heard last from one of the members of Six Parts Seven - a band that was supposed to be Buckner's backing band for the tour, but was relinquished of those duties early on in the tour, with Buckner not feeling it - that Buckner had mentioned this day as well that he just "wasn't feeling it." At the time, we were a bit hurt and confused, but now hearing what the Californian-turned-New Yorker did here - on an afternoon when he was most definitely feeling it - all is forgiven and forgotten. He does nothing if he isn't feeling it. He's totaled by what he feels. It's bone-chilling how touching the songs that he strums out with his thick fingers and sings out with eyes squinted shut and his barrel chest moving in and out in its slow symphony with his dark and melancholy words.
You can imagine Buckner staggering slowly across a field or a lawn on a seasonably cold morning - his feet catching some of the grass's cold, wet dew - with his head bowed and his hands shoved deep into his front pockets, deep in thought. And this has gone on for decades, still entrenched in the broken chances of his life and the absent second glances into the past that make everything feel as if it were laced with a vacant stare and the sorrow of a widower. There are many images of those who are waiting, those who are growing older and those who are sleeping alone and it's not at all what they want as they're pining for someone they used to share the night with long ago. The aches that Buckner sings about are those that are so clean and so genuinely affecting that they never feel rushed, but paced into a hypnotic stroll that gets spun into cobwebs. It's as if he's patiently waiting for the fires to die on their own, without any prodding or any splashing water. It's the natural exhaustion of energy to a state that's just lying still in its own aftermath. The cues have been killed and the times have been lost to a troubled dizziness of unwanted abandonment. He sings, "Honey, are you ready for the fade?/Wait just a little while," and the wait continues and continues until we're all just sick with mournful anxiety and feel all the bees, just as Buckner does. It's his lullaby and ours.