If you've been eavesdropping in any erudite music circles of late, there are a couple of names you may have heard being kicked around outside of the mainstream: Richard Buckner and Damien Jurado. You're likely to hear the two in the same breath with equal praise. Buckner and Jurado are underground heroes with similar histories and fan bases; each has put out around five albums in the past decade, and each earns critical accolades for his intimate, intelligent lyrics and inspiring guitar work.
Though they hail from the West Coast, Buckner from San Francisco and Jurado from Seattle, their music is synonymous with the Lubbock and Austin, Texas, alt-country-indie-folk-rock scene. There's usually a disk or two of Jurado's or Buckner's on the eclectic collector's shelf, somewhere near Lucero, Nick Drake, Jeff Buckley and Radiohead. Some find Buckner and Jurado's style reminiscent of Nebraska-era Springsteen, and others will break out a Dead Sea-esque scroll that accounts for a lengthy lineage of legends to which the sounds may be attributed.
Buckner is the answer to the question, What would happen if a honey-drunk grizzly bear picked up a guitar? He towers somewhere above 6 feet and dwarfs his instrument. He regales us with tunes of weariness, heartbreak and downfall, but doesn't abandon us to despair. There's also redemption and a light in the darkness; a depth most struggled with on his earlier EP Devotion and Doubt (which incidentally should be on everyone's Top 10 CDs You'd Take to the Moon list). Buckner is a man brimming with zest for life; he's passionate in the gentle hulk way -- you can trust him by his smile.
Dents and Shells is his latest release; it debuted last week and captures Buckner, backed on 10 songs by a formidable crew. This album is his sixth full-length and it chronicles more change in the life of a roaming poet. Dents and Shells paints a layer of optimism over sometimes cynical and hopeless emotions, reminding us of a metaphorical springtime. Still, this is gritty business.
Jurado is no stranger to the themes expounded by his comrade in spirit, and the grace by which he shares his own accounts of the stories is pensive and beautiful. If one more likeness could be drawn to describe Jurado, it would be Elliot Smith with a bit of a folksier twist. Jurado captures a very moving somberness and mellow meandering to the tune of a band like The Six Parts Seven, while at times breaking out into a twang that would complement the Cold Mountain soundtrack. Jurado's versatility is best exemplified by the ageless quality of his work.
Jurado released the 10-song offering Where Shall You Take Me in mid-2003, following up on the cult success of his 2002 release I Break Chairs and three prior albums. Where Shall You Take Me encompasses a stark bleakness, yet comforts like a familiar, guiding voice through dark woods. It is the kind of album that provides a grounding point of home when you are out driving a long road far away, preferably beneath starlight. It would be perfect to smell Sunday food and open your eyelids to a sun-drenched room hearing Jurado's lull.
But I'll settle for a glimpse of the duo at 32 Bleu.
-- Matthew Schniper
Richard Buckner and Damien Jurado, with Dolorean
32 Bleu, 32 S. Tejon St.
Monday, Nov. 1, 9 p.m.
Call 955-5664 or visit www.32bleu.com for more