Richard Buckner with Dottie Cormier and Kathleen Edwards at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Friday (January 11). $10. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
don't try to pin richard bucknerdown. He won't stand for it. The singer-songwriter with a six-string may be trying to free himself from the roots sound he started with for a more rock 'n' roll feel, but his melancholic vocals and lyrics and haunting instrumentation keep him close to his humble beginnings, and to the Neil Young comparisons.
Though critics and fans find Buckner's stuff rootsy and countryish, he says the songs just come out the way they do. But he's not distancing himself from tradition. He says the survival lifestyle that sparked American traditional music still exists.
"It's really hard to live in America," says Buckner from a studio in Edmonton where he's working on an album due out in late summer.
"It's difficult for a lot of people to live life as Americans unless they're millionaires, because people can't afford to live and they can't afford to retire."
After the release of his third album, Bloomed, Buckner split with the MCA label.
"I thought it would be fun to be on a major label. Since they were the only ones who wanted me, I thought, why not? You get tour support," he explains in a typical melancholy tone.
"And I didn't really have any pressure from MCA. I had enough songs to do the two albums I'd committed to."
But, he says, MCA didn't really know how to handle him, so Buckner released his fourth album, Hill, with Chicago-based label Overcoat, distributed through Touch and Go. He's much happier with this team.
But you get the sense that it's not so easy for the guy to find true contentment. Even extended time in a studio -- with complete control -- doesn't necessarily make him happy.
"I actually went into the studio and finished a record, but I'm not going to put it out," says Buckner. "It just didn't turn me on."
Gameboys, cars, computers or home entertainment systems? He's not into any of that, he says. So what does Buckner want?
"I want to finish this album and call for the collapse of the United States so the wealth can be spread around."