1997, Music

Devotion + Doubt (1997) by Richard Buckner

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I stumbled upon this because of my father. He gave it to me and I had no idea what it was. He didn’t really explain either. By the cover I think I mistakenly thought it either was “classical” initially – I must have read “Bruckner” rather than Buckner – and then I think I thought it was jazz. And I have no idea why my dad bought it. Did he read a review? Who knows. Anyway, I had zero expectations.

But the first thing I heard was a voice that sounded remarkably like Virgil Shaw another cult ’90s alt country singer-songwriter from California. So that shifted things considerably and, for better or worse.

That’s because I’m now listening to this through the lens of Virgil Shaw, which is incredibly unfair for Buckner because I love Virgil Shaw. So I’ll just get this out of the way: this is a far, far less quirky interpretation of alt country than Shaw’s. It’s pretty straightforward, despite the presence of some pretty weird guest musicians on some tracks. (Marc Ribot, Howie Gelb… So don’t look at that list and expect anything other than pretty straight ahead alt country.)

The good news is that Buckner is a pretty excellent songwriter. This is just one record and I’m basically completely unaware of anything else about the guy, but based on this set of songs, I’d be willing to bet he is among the best alt country songwriters the movement produced and among the better songwriters of his generation. That’s pretty high praise, I realize, but this is a particularly strong set of songs. (It’s entirely possible this is just his best set of songs, as it’s one of his few records to get a Wikipedia entry.)

Buckner’s delivery isn’t quite as quirky as it seems on the first track, “Pull”, either. That’s less representative of his singing than much of the rest of the album. So my misplaced comparison feels extra strange when I’m listening to songs where his voice doesn’t break.

So this is a good set of songs, played and arranged well. I really couldn’t have asked for more and so I’m happy that my father bought this CD for some reason and then decided he didn’t like it so I should give it a chance.

Thanks Dad.



  1. What a great review. I have a Google alert set up for Richard, so I found your blog. He’s an all-time favorite of mine, just behind Bob Dylan and Gillian Welch actually; just a spectacular guy whose music means the world to me. His entire catalog is worth checking out, as is his story (Google his ordeal being a murder suspect a few years back). Thanks for the read!

  2. Thanks for the comment and I’ll look up that case.

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