Marfa Dialogues

Richard Buckner

Six Parts Seven

1 April 2007


Noted American singer-songwriter and guitarist Richard Buckner will play Liberty Hall this Sunday evening as part of Ballroom Marfa’s 2007 music series.

He’s too folk to be considered indie-rock, and just too experimental to be labeled a conventional singer-songwriter, but in his own way Richard Buckner embodies the rootsy, renegade spirit of classic Texas songwriting.

Buckner was raised in California’s Central Valley, his musical development taking shape with stints in Atlanta and later in the alternative country hotbed of the early ‘90s Bay Area.

It’s the Texas wing of singer-songwriters, though, that’s most frequently cited in reference to Buckner’s recordings. Perhaps then it was inevitable that he would leave the Doubters, his San Francisco country-rock group, and make the journey to Lubbock to record his first solo album. 1994’s Bloomed, a suite of songs produced by area legend Lloyd Maines, earned Buckner substantial critical notice, his ambitiously poetic lyrics, mournful voice, and earthy acoustic style inviting comparisons to Texas cult favorites like Butch Hancock, Terry Allen, and Townes Van Zandt.

Seven full-length albums of Buckner’s literate and darkly personal songwriting have followed. Cross-country adventures and lack of mainstream support notwithstanding, Buckner’s creative energy for songwriting remains as steadfast as the small, if passionate, contingent of alternative music fans who savor his every line. Which isn’t to say that Buckner has merely coasted on his reputation as an independent maverick; his albums in recent years, including 2006’s Meadow (on Merge Records), have continued the transition from spare country instrumentation to a more electrified, indie-rock production style.

Throughout, though, is the pervasive, haunted quality in Buckner’s songcraft. Indeed, it’s impossible to discuss Buckner as an artist without also discussing his reputation as an incorrigible nomad. It’s a mystique that Buckner has helped evoke with the desolate spaces and imagery of his lyrics; very much part of it, however, is the loner reality of his lifestyle. Buckner has truly made a life of his grueling tours and perpetual wanderlust.

Based for the moment in Brooklyn, Buckner has, true to form, been on the road in recent months. The next thirty days take him from Chattanooga to Australia and back to the Midwest for nearly as many shows. His Marfa appearance is sandwiched between stops in Lubbock and Tucson – a fairly short geographical stretch by Buckner’s standards.

This will actually be Buckner’s first appearance in Marfa, though. Getting this honorary Texan to perform here has long been a pet project for Ballroom Marfa’s music director Vance Knowles, who was first captivated by Buckner’s songwriting and unique voice over ten years ago. “Buckner has been on the short list of musicians we’ve wanted to play the Ballroom since the beginning,” Knowles notes.

Appearing with Buckner for his Liberty Hall appearance will be Ohio’s epic instrumentalists Six Parts Seven, who’ve been touring with Buckner since February. An accomplished indie-rock group with several albums of intricate, twangy arrangements to their name, Six Parts Seven will perform an opening set of their own material as well as providing the backing music for Buckner.

Showtime for Richard Buckner on Sunday night is 8:30 pm. Doors open at 8 pm. Liberty Hall is located next door to the Ballroom Marfa, at 108 E. San Antonio St. in Marfa.