On January 15, Buck Meek released his second full length solo album, Two Saviors. My 20-something daughter, knowing my tastes better than I do, recommended I check it out. Now, my daughter has impeccable taste in music. Unfortunately, I don’t. So, I have only myself to blame when my initial reaction to Two Saviors was that Meek sounded like a cross between They Might Be Giants and Tiny Tim if only Tim had taken this whole music thing just a little more seriously. Not that this wouldn’t be good, but upon further listening, I realized that it’s not Meek.
Best known for his collaborations with Adrianne Lenker in their band, Big Thief, on Two Saviors, Meek explores worlds that reveal themselves only slowly. He recorded the album live to eight-track tape — it’s got the hiss to prove it — and according to a stricter no-headphones rule that you’d imagine possible in this day and age. In addition to his own voice and guitars, the album features multi-instrumentalist Mat Davidson, guitarist Adam Brisbin, Meek’s brother pianist/organist Dylan Meek (who sometimes steals the show), and drummer Austin Vaughn.
The tracks range from strummed folk to rockers that draw on a strange world view. I don’t mean strange in an abhorrent sense suggesting difference. Rather, it’s strange in that its meaning won’t reveal itself easily. As Meeks website describes it, his songs aren’t for you and me, unless we’re “the lost dogs of honest mechanics, good guys and girls born into a life of crime, runaways, snow spirits, the ghosts of Central Park, unsung diving-board stars, the affection shared through gambling, and so on.” Ah, but of course you are, or you wouldn’t be reading this review now, would you?
You can get it. But you’re gonna have to work for it. You’re going to have to look deep inside or is it beyond the stars? I can’t tell you. You’ll have to figure it out for yourself. Just don’t try too hard, and there it is. As bandmate Mat Davidson put it, “I never had much use for friendship, but meeting a soul such as Mr. Meek gave me pause; he changed this old Buckskin – and I wager he’ll change you too.”
“Pareidolia” opens things up with a mid-tempo snare featuring some wonderful keys and what come across as a bunch of words. “Remember the time” that was something, though memories are fuzzy. That should be as clear as day.
“Candle” comes out with a snare hit that opens your eyes even though you can’t stop revisiting the familiar. With the wind of the second most famous highway in rock and roll on your arm out the window. “When it’s too much to handle, burn me a candle, and if you don’t have a candle, let me burn on your mind.” It’s been awhile, but “still the same face with a line or two, still the same heart I always knew.” I’m hooked.
“Second Sight” breaks out the fuzz guitar. Rather than blue eyes that changed to hazel, there’s now one of each. It’s a swimming hole of turpentine that he can’t clean up. But he’s got other specialties. Like helping you with feelings you can’t describe. “I’ll work for free, cause love is all you need.”
The title cut comes next. “Two saviors fighting over a soul.” Rhyming couplets. “A need to be alone to know my home. I know no home. But hold me, Joe.”
“Two Moons” comes off the pond like the morning midst. Little by little and then it’s there. It’s all about looking further in, in, or maybe it’s out there in the stars, beyond them. Probably both. And we’re starting to learn that the string squeak is what it’s all about.
“Dream Daughter” is a father’s song. I can’t always say it. But that’s ok, right?
“Ham on White” rocks. Don’t ask me to because I will. And I’m not sure either of us want that.
“Cannonball! Pt. 2” is a life goes on guitar on the left, drum kit on the right kinda rollicking number. “All the ways she laughed, make me want to make her laugh.” We been there. Yes, we have. But can we keep going? . . . “my jokes are getting old.”
“Two Moons (morning)” is “Two Moons” but honky-tonk full of whatever they fill honky-tonks with when their authentic and that whole looking in/looking out thing, you better not be paying too close attention.
“Pocketknife” is a campfire song. “Thank God for coffee.”
“Halo Light” makes you remember, in case you’d forgotten, that it is all about the string scratch squeal. “Why do we feel sorrow? . . . We will live again tomorrow.” Back then, “I thought I heard you humming.” Now, I’m sure.