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CD REVIEW: Richard Buckner's Our Blood 

THE DEAL: Buckner's eighth lands near the top, though not at the peak, of his catalog.

THE GOOD: The "blood" in the title was meant to be metaphorical; a disquisition on the good and the corrupt in our lineage. But given the gauntlet this disc travelled over its five-year gestation, you gotta believe actual platelets were shed. Overcoming multiple LP-destroying gear malfunctions and a stolen laptop, it's a miracle these nine songs still exist. Despite their troubled path, they share the comforting dichotomies of all Buckner records: the percussive strumming and glissando lattices; keyboards casting candlelight or shadows; steel-guitar laments and howling e-bows; elliptical images forming poignant truths; and The Voice, a husky whisper or yearning slur that implicates and empathizes. On a tearjerker like "Confession," where he double-tracks vocals over pedal steel and a bittersweet embrace of keys, and then confides, "There's no place to hide from what we've done," you'll understand how guilt corrodes or simply be incapable of the emotion.

THE BAD: You can argue that Buckner works best when surrounded with musicians who are better players than him, yet open-minded enough to convey the mood each song demands. Some have declared Our Blood — in the end, a solo-made effort — a career-best. But compared to Devotion & Doubt (made with Calexico as his backing band), Since (featuring Tortoise's John McEntire, pedal steel wiz Eric Heywood, David Grubbs, Dave Schramm, et al.) or even Meadow (contributions from GBV and Mekons alumni), you sense that's giving these songs extra credit for just surviving.

THE VERDICT: Still gorgeous.

CD review

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Richard Buckner

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