Richard Buckner – Surrounded
★★★★ (out of 5 stars)
Buckner’s always been one of the more open-minded country-folk artists. But relatively speaking, this album is weird, perhaps his most experimental to date. Coming off his overthought, soundtrack-like comeback (2011’s Our Blood), that’s perhaps an uneasy prospect. And indeed, the musical vocabulary departs with a minimalism that even gets electronic at times. But the critical, anchoring difference here is that Buckner’s back in the pocket and melodically cogent again. “Surrounded,” “Go” and “Cut,” for instance, are classic examples of his beautiful vocal wavers, perhaps heightened more by their pristine setting. Surrounded is a purposeful, distilled work that pushes even Buckner’s own bounds convincingly.