With the first notes the opener “Grinnin’” from Wisconsin’s Tim Buchanan with Dusk … And on His Own (Cutch of Memory Enterprises) starts a 9-track LP that sounds promising in the spirit of country-rock innovator Gram Parsons. However, the majority of this collaboration is evident only here.
Tim, rhythm/lead guitar/vocal; Amos Pitsch, bass; Tyler Ditter, lead/rhythm guitar; Ryley Crowe, rhythm, pedal steel/vocal; Colin Wilde drums & Julia Blair, piano/fiddle. What remains is the question.
Can Tim maintain this quality throughout the LP? There are obviously strong influences, plenty of good musicianship. But these are not easy figures to emulate. Collectively Buchanan & Dusk may carve out a niche in marble – or maybe plaster.
The fullness of “Grinnin’,” falls off with the subsequent songs. “Maybe I” & “Saccharine,” are sung in a more Neil Young tone. Quite good. Not imitation. Tim applies his country-punk style with good posturing — it works…sometimes.
After the full-bodied “Grinnin’” the tunes are bare bones with some rough vocal spots that persist throughout …And on His Own. Some can be forgiven. It adds charm. The early solo songs are the best — sincere, well-written ballads that possess a demo quality. They just need polish, need to be played more, develop. A distinct banjo or fiddle added to the acoustic guitar would thicken the stew.
“Just Got Home,” has a clean acoustic but Tim’s vocals slide into a more monotone region. Not enough highs, lows, intonation & emotion. His voice, fortunately, maintains a thread of soul — a diluted Woody Guthrie. The performance succeeds to push through the surface like a dandelion between concrete. Slightly sour vocally at the end. The rough-hewn vocal can wear on the uninitiated ear.
More absorbing is “I Don’t Know.” Tim’s angst vocal is effective. This should be rearranged for a band. The repetitious strum — after it simmers through many bars needs to change key & start to cook. The showcase would probably work better with female backup ala Delaney & Bonnie or Emmylou Harris.
Neil Young, The Byrds, Gene Clark, & Gram Parsons, had signature styles. Tim’s songs grasp ideas, good ideas, but don’t have traction like those songwriters. Not yet anyway. The beautiful “Watch Over Me,” melody becomes prickly from too many sour vocal notes. As is, it’s just Tim & his guitar. No room to compensate for missteps.
Though there’s a creative thread many songs lack the tight weave of originality. If one listens to Neil Young, Townes Van Zandt, Buddy Miller, Gene Clark, Bob Neuwirth, or the young raw 70’s kid who recorded for Arista — Danny Peck (Heart & Soul – 1977) — each voice & songwriting style had unique wordplay. Buchanan has something to say. But he’s raw ginger with little appeal as ginger ale. He needs to make things tastier.
After the first song momentum ebbed. They had quality but the vocal tonality, intonation, phrasing, & style as applied to the music – seemed all jabs and no knockout. There’s potential despite the lack of LP cohesion. Tim has competent Neil Young-like circuitry but none of Neil’s design, urgency, and showcase. Neil covers certain genres, like Springsteen, Waits, Mellencamp, Leonard Cohen & Joni Mitchell do. Jamming more with Dusk could do the trick. Tim needs the marble motivation a band provides.
Why? Listen to the durable track “Grinnin’”. A full LP of songs like that would’ve been superb. Neil has his Crazy Horse — Tim needs something like Dusk.
The LP is available here: http://www.crutchofmemory.com/