Enigmatic singer-songwriter Richard Buckner has been highly acclaimed but chiefly a cult phenomenon since his 1994 debut, Bloomed. Our Blood is the first album from Buckner in five years, and the story behind its series of delays is as intriguing as it is unfortunate. Scoring a film that never came to pass? It happened. After that, Our Blood recordings were lost due to faulty equipment and later a stolen laptop. Too add insult to injury, while recording at the wrong grange hall, Buckner was briefly questioned as a potential suspect in a murder case involving a torched car with a headless corpse.
Considering all the drama that led up to the oft-delayed release of Old Blood, it’s no wonder that Richard Buckner’s vocals are as world-weary as ever. This weariness with a weathered toughness underneath gives subtle character to the inscrutable wordsmith. At its core, Our Blood is a collection of folksy alt-country laments, but songs such as “Thief” and “Confession” incorporate sparse electronics to haunting effect. Curiously, it is on “Ponder”, a three-minute instrumental piece, that Our Blood is at its bleakest. On “Ponder”, the acoustic and electronic sides of Buckner interplay to reach new heights of heart-wrenching desolation.
Rooted in a blend of outlaw country, Americana, and folk, but venturing into experimental and avant garde pastures, Richard Buckner is the sort of singer-songwriter one would expect from Merge Records. This record may not be quite on the same level as his best country and experimental albums (1997’s Devotion & Doubt and 2002’s Impasse, respectively), but Old Blood offers a glimpse into the world of Richard Buckner that serves as an ideal starting point for new listeners.