Monday, August 5, 2013

Buster Blue Change Up Their Sound for Album #2

Folk music has made an enormous resurgence as an answer to the computerized sheen of today's pop.  Clever marketing teams have found ways to sell millions of records again even if every song sounds the same (Mumford & Sons) or reeks of inauthenticity (the Lumineers).  So many musicians are picking up their acoustic guitars and giving Americana a try that we've been confronted with an oversaturation of folk music to the point where every new artist I'm looking at comes with a "RIYL: Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers, the Civil Wars."  It's the largest folk explosion since the 1960s, and just like the '60s, there's a lot of shit to wade through to find the good stuff.  Fortunately, you've got me to put on the muck boots and do the dirty work.

In April, I was trudging through Daytrotter and discovered a folk quintet out of Reno called Buster Blue.  Their songs kept going in directions I didn't expect, just as you wouldn't expect Reno to produce many Americana acts.  On 8/23, Buster Blue will release their second full-length, Sleep Less Where the Heart Is.  Ironically, it's sleepier than the rest of their discography, a somber, subdued affair.  It gets off to a slow start, favoring traditional song structures and instrumentation.  Thankfully, the record wakes up on the b-side, the band members making better use of their talents and woodwinds.  While there's nothing on it as catchy as "Moonlight" from their previous EP, "Leave Me in C'oeur d'Alene" is the standout here.  With its almost orchestral feel and the heartbreakingly vivid image conveyed by the line, "Tell me is this some kind of joke / Or am I holding onto smoke?" the tune could easily be the tearjerking soliloquy in a Broadway musical.  The piano-based epilogue "Light in the Attic" evokes a similar mood, although it would be more appropriate as non-diegetic music in a film.  While I would've liked to hear more lead vocals from Rachael McElhiney, Buster Blue have still managed to do something that Mumford & Sons haven't: They made a record that doesn't sound exactly like their last one.

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