To those accustomed to Richard Buckner's spare, haunted music, the guitar sound of Doug Gillard (ex-Guided by Voices) as it buzzes through Meadow might be disorienting. Sure, Buckner has employed electric guitars before, but the rock urgency pulsating through the terrific opening tracks "Town" and "Canyon" is something he has rarely tapped before.
Then again, Buckner's music is often disorienting. A man of few words, Buckner writes elliptical lyrics that sometimes sound like poetry translated into English from some other language. However, their sentiments are grounded in more familiar territory. Lines like "I wasn't the only one sleeping in the dream" or "stepping out of goodbye spoken," sung in his raspy, wounded voice, speak clearly of deep emotion.
Buckner hasn't abandoned the power of quietude, as tunes like the piano-based "Before" bear out. But the disc's rock-based accompaniments (the backing band features the sturdy drumming of one-time Graham Parker sideman Steven Goulding) inject energy and warmth that were missing in earlier discs, where the lonesome pedal steel ruled. Meadow is a beguiling, powerful, surprisingly electric effort from the brooding poet of the Americana scene.