MISSISSIPPI STUDIOS PRESENTS THE ICONIC CANADIAN ALT-COUNTRY/EXPERIMENTAL SONGWRITER
$12 advance / $14 day of show
In the time since Our Blood was released and after a few long tours, Richard Buckner attempted to work on writing short stories but found himself drawn back into the music room. The evidence of his time in the writer’s chair is clear in the dense, lovely prose of Surrounded. The album’s liner notes include text-embedded lyrics, a technique Buckner employed on his earlier albums Since and Impasse, but this marks the first time he used the songs’ extended story to construct the album’s overall view and track sequence.
Throwing out the “tricks and trades” of his previous efforts, Buckner hunkered down at home and chose a few unfamiliar pieces of gear—a Suzuki QChord electronic autoharp and an Electro-Harmonix POG2 pedal—to create basic tracks and open up more sonic possibilities. “The best outcomes happen sometimes when I’m unfamiliar with the tool that I’m using (imagine MacGyver wearing a dog cone).”
The now-infamous process of recording and re-recording Our Blood left him a bit gun-shy, so this time, Buckner decided to get each song out of his house as soon as it was finished to avoid the contamination of over-thinking. After hearing an interview with famed producer Tucker Martine, Buckner found a destination for his songs: “Tucker understood the urgency in me to tie the whole thing up before I fell into the same trap that I’d had finishing Our Blood and was generous enough to move other commitments around to fit Surrounded in. When I had finally finished Our Blood, I felt like I’d just survived a stroll through a mine field. With Surrounded, it was more of a sensation that I’d successfully organized a messy desk.”
I'd been out of prison for about a year when I was asked to contribute a track to Fierce, a benefit compilation for my friend Jennifer Holmes. I had no real plan where writing, recording and performing music were concerned beyond following whatever felt like the next right thing to do. Jennifer's benefit felt like that next right thing. I called Jordan Richter - who had engineered Nowhere Nights and Heart of a Dog, and who owns Room 13 Recording in Portland - and asked if we could get some folks together to donate a track for Jennifer. Jordan, Lewi Longmire, Jesse Sutherland and Capers Ogletree were amenable to the idea and so we cut "Wiseblood", a Tender Mercies song I'd loved as a kid and rediscovered when my band went out with Mercies and Counting Crows in 2012. We tracked and mixed the song in a day at Room 13 and got it in under the wire to make Jennifer's record. At the time, it felt like a pretty natural place for me to leave things. I'd spent most of my 20s and 30s making records and touring with mixed results and after prison, my focus was on earning my certification as a Peer Support Specialist for others who live with mental illness and addiction.
I stayed in touch with Jordan as 2016 came to an end and most everyone I knew recoiled in horror and then stood back up and fought for themselves and each other the best they could, in the ways they knew how. Songs started to show up for me around that time. Some had been around before and during my time in prison and hung around long enough to stay, and others came along as one year gave way to the next and the world seemed to be trying to shake all of us off like a dog does its fleas. That spring, more as a distraction than anything else, I started playing with Jordan, Ben Landsverk and Jesse Moffat on the rare days when we were all free of other obligations. Because our practice space was Jordan's studio, we recorded whatever we did. Why not? Our intention was to have a record what we were doing in case we happened upon an idea one or two of us might want to chase around sometime later. I'd been playing the odd duo gig with my friend Peter Ames Carlin, who was insistent that making another record ought to be at least somewhere near my radar. I told him I thought it was asking a lot of people to expect them to want to hear what I had to say after the things I'd done and for the most part, we left it at that. The shows with Peter, though, and the occasional nights at Room 13, reminded me that long before I'd let everything in my life run off the rails, making up songs and playing them with friends was something I loved very much.
In June, Bj Barham came through Portland on his Great 48 Tour, and in the middle of catching up after the gig I blurted out that I was probably through making records. From then on, BJ joined Peter in insisting that pursuing a career in advocacy did not have to mean abandoning writing, recording, and performing. Songs kept showing up and summer found Jordan, Jesse, Ben and myself with a little more free time on our hands than any of us had expected. Rehearsals turned into recording sessions, and we started to hear an album in there. BJ and Peter's voices had been joined by some other very generous, very supportive friends, and so I sent them the tracks and invited them to play or sing along if they felt so inclined. Eric Ambel, who produced my first three records, gave us a guitar part for "Chasing the Sky", as did Andrew McKeag. McKeag sang too, which was a nice reminder of how lucky I had been to play with him in the Honkies. McKeag said he loved "From a White Hotel" and so he put some guitar on that, as well. Kurt Bloch and Ralph Carney lent guitar and sax, respectively, to "Get Low", a song I'd had around for a few years that hadn't managed to find its way onto a record. Dave Jorgensen played some trumpet(s) on "Every Once In a While", and Marisa La Fata Mazur sang on that one. Kay Hanley sang with me on "The Dangerous Ones", a song I'd written as I watched what looked for all the world to me like a country beginning to eat itself alive.
It's Autumn now in Portland as I write this and we've got ten tracks that sound to me like a finished record. I'm grateful for the opportunity to write and play and sing these songs, and to have my friends around for it. The life I lead is a lucky one, and I try each day to be deserving of it. I make no attempt to ignore or forget the things I did, and I don't expect anyone else to ignore or forget them, either. I spent a long time covering up and the only thing that came from it was a lot of pain for people who loved me, and people who trusted me, and and a lot of time lost I'd love to have back. To make sure the things I learned and the changes I made remain a part of my life is important to me; just as important is making sure I don't allow the past to define who I am and what I do now. Which brings me to this:
I'm proud of these songs and so grateful and honored to have been able to record them with my friends. I'd like for people to hear them. I believe they're worth listening to. I hope they'll be available to you sometime toward the middle of next year. That feels, to me, like the next right thing.
Kasey Anderson | Portland, OR | October 31, 2017