Genre blending uncovers fresh country.
If you look him up, Buck Loner is not some legendary 1950’s country singer, he’s an absurd cliché – a former country radio star character in the 1970 cult (but not classic) film Myra Breckenridge. Based on a wonderfully crazed Gore Vidal novel and starring Raquel Welch, it had a lot going for it but just didn’t gel. On the evidence of their first gig The Buck Loner Revue have done the opposite: they’ve taken quality ingredients, great writing, great musos, warping genres and created something very good and very fun indeed. While Buck Loner was a cliché ten-gallon hat country these guys had not a hat in sight. It is country-inspired music but it comes with smart new twists and plenty of rockin’ licks. If it were wearing any headgear at all it would be a tie dyed Neil Young headband dusted with Jeff Tweedy Americana grit and faded power pop baseball cap (worn forwards) as a costume change.
Genre-blending takes a fresh turn with the latest imagining by Chris Porter, who has already shown us tried and trusted rock and psyche can be brilliantly re-made for the modern world with his fuzzed out Dirt Picnic. This gathering of talented musos has Chris on Rhythm and vocal duties and a traditional clear toned lead handled by Mark Lucas, and they have sparked up a fresh take on country rock. Psyche-tinged country power-pop anyone? Non-traditional country roots rock or Americana is in vogue these days and thankfully the guys are in the ‘we’ve thought about this properly’ category. They start from classic early 70’s country rock and go much further. They are never quite as radical as Wilco at their most introverted, though “Sweet Communion” at the beginning of their second set is close. And there is musical wisdom in everything they do, largely because of Porter’s excellent writing and his thoughtful off-centre vocal style that gives an edge to every number, including those ‘pop country’ moments that rival Steve Earle in his white stetson swagger days.
The best news is that it’s still possible to wander down the pub and find yourself captivated by a debut set that reinvigorates the idea of a fun Sunday session with hardly a cover in sight, except for a sweet country song by American singer songwriter John Fullbright called “Didn’t Know I was in Love with You”. The inner west Union mob enjoyed well over an album’s worth of great new songs all penned by Chris and played by the boys: Peter Yates on bass, John Jessen on drums and Mark Lucas on lead guitar. The crowd took to them like old standards getting their feet moving for a roaring finale that included ‘On the Waterfront’, Chris’s tribute and cautionary tale to the seedier side of his hometown St John’s on Canada’s chilly Newfoundland east-coast. Perhaps it’s that salty Canadian tone that gives The Buck Loner Revue the gritty authenticity needed to ensure this kind of music avoids the cliché trap with tracks like ‘Stranded In Valentine’. Instead, the song conjours up a contemporary ‘love ain’t all it should be’ story around breaking down but needin’ to drive out of Valentine, somewhere west of Chris’s Aussie hometown – Newcastle – also giving it a welcome Aussie tone. So we can claim the Buck Loners as Aussie new wave country if we want and if you want to hear more you’re going to have to go listen next time to the Buck Loner Revue and say ‘hi’. There’s no product from these guys yet, just more live shows down the dirt road you scuff up your sneakers along the way.
By Neal Vaughan (600 words)