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SXSW 2018 Interview: Buck Meek

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd July 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo: Buck Meek, far right, with his band at Luck Reunion during SXSW 2018

If you’re a regular TGTF reader, you might already be familiar with the name of singer/songwriter Buck Meek. We’ve covered Meek before in his role as part of alt-rock band Big Thief, both in live review and previous SXSW coverage. Back in March, during SXSW 2018, Meek came to Austin as a solo artist, to preview his now-released debut LP, which is simply titled ‘Buck Meek.’ I caught a very quick moment with Meek after his set at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion to ask him about the new album.

‘Buck Meek’ technically isn’t Meek’s solo debut, following on his previous EP release ‘Heart Was Beat’ from back in 2015. That EP includes the memorable track ‘Sam Bridges’, which he played in a slightly different form in the Revival Tent at Luck than what I remembered from a live performance in Phoenix with Big Thief several years ago. Discussing his set on the day, Meek agreed. “That [song] had a more country feel. I mean, we’re playing it with a slide guitar player today, who kind of mimics the [pedal] steel, and with a country drum beat and everything.”

Having only seen Meek before in the context of Big Thief’s edgy folk rock, I was curious about the more obvious country influence I heard on display in his solo work. “I think there’s influence there”, Meek says. “I grew up in Wimberly, Texas, south of Austin. I grew up listening to, surrounded by country music. So it’s always been, I think, an influence. And to be honest, this set, I catered more towards that feel.”

But many of the songs on ‘Buck Meek’, the album, defy easy classification as straighforward country songs. Musically, the record’s foundational country tone is obfuscated by elements of what Meek describes as “grunge, and punk rock, and more esoteric stuff.” Early single ‘Cannonball!’ has a distinct twang to it, most prominently in Meek’s vocal lines, but its laid-back rhythm section is unmistakabely jazz-tinged, and its electric guitar riff is pure blues rock. ‘Ruby’ is a charmingly elusive, rhythmically complex track which Meek explained to Uproxx as “the suspension in love, when time folds in on itself, when the first instant of meeting cycles through the idiosyncratic friction and ancient affection of years together, which again cycles into infancy and eager fascination — all contained within a sideways glance.”

Thematically, ‘Buck Meek’ touches on a wide array of subject matter, from platonic male friendship (‘Joe By the Book’) to a plane crash in the French Alps (‘Flight 9525’), and an intriguing cast of characters, including a widow named ‘Sue’ and a devoted canine ‘Best Friend.’ In the end, the heart of the album is revealed in final track ‘Fool Me’, a late night country bar classic, with a plaintive piano melody and Meek’s self-deprecating vocal evoking the mild yet persistent yearning of one last slow dance on an otherwise deserted dance floor.

‘Buck Meek’ was released on the 18th of May on Austin record label Keeled Scales. Buck Meek will spend the remainder of the summer on tour supporting the release of the album, including the following run of dates in the UK in August. In addition to the shows listed below, Meek will support fellow country artist Courtney Marie Andrews at the Norwich Arts Centre on the 21st of August and at Southampton’s Talking Heads on the 22nd of August. You can find a full listing of Meek’s upcoming live dates on his official Facebook. TGTF’s previous coverage of Buck Meek is collected through here.

Monday 20th August 2018 – Brighton Komedia
Thursday 23rd August 2018 – London Islington
Friday 24th August 2018 – Manchester Gullivers
Sunday 26th August 2018 – Dublin Grand Social
Monday 27th August 2018 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Tuesday 28th August 2018 – Glasgow Hug and Pint

 

SXSW 2018: Thursday at Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion (Part 1) – 15th March 2018

 
By on Friday, 20th April 2018 at 2:00 pm
 

On the Thursday of SXSW, I had the unique opportunity to attend the celebrated Luck Reunion, hosted at the Luck, Texas ranch of legendary country songwriter Willie Nelson. The Luck Reunion’s stated mission is “to cultivate the new while showing honor to influence”, among “musicians, artisans, and chefs, who like the outlaws and outliers before them, follow their dreams without compromise.” The event is staged at Nelson’s home and working ranch, which is about a 45-minute drive from downtown Austin, and which presents a very different atmosphere from the hectic SXSW schedule of conferences and showcases.

Lilly Hiatt internal

Once arrived at the Luck Ranch, I didn’t have much time to get acquainted with the surroundings before the full day of music was set to begin. I took a quick peek into the tiny Luck Chapel to catch a couple of songs from Nashville songwriter Lilly Hiatt, whose quirky combination of folky Americana and grungy rock sounds can be heard on her recent third album ‘Trinity Lane’.

Song Swap internal

Next, I headed outside to the Revival Stage, which was hosting a “song swap”, including a pair of songwriters I was keen to hear, Arizona native singer Courtney Marie Andrews and soulful Nashville songwriter Sam Lewis, who were joined onstage by fellow songwriters Caleb Caudle and Kevin Kinney (of Drivin’ N Cryin’). I’m not sure if the song swap was intended to be more interactive among the performers, but in practice, the four artists simply took turns singing their own songs, rather than actually swapping. That said, I was especially excited to hear songs from Andrews’ excellent recent album ‘May Your Kindness Remain’, and Lewis’ upcoming LP ‘Loversity’. All four singers made a strong impression of the quality of songwriting on display at Luck.

Buck Meek internal

Immediately following on the same stage, Buck Meek (also known to TGTF readers as part of Big Thief) played a set of his solo tunes, including one, ‘Sam Bridges’, that I vaguely recognized from a Big Thief show back in 2015. I was able to catch Meek after his set for a quick chat about that song as well as the new ones on his forthcoming self-titled solo LP. Stay tuned to TGTF for that interview, which will post in the coming days.

Sam Lewis internal

After chatting with Meek, I had an appointment for another interview, this one with the aforementioned Sam Lewis. Outside the Luck Chapel, he and I took seats on an old wooden swingset, which was both novel and remarkably sturdy. (Thanks to Sarah for the photo above.) Lewis was outgoing and easy to talk to, and we chatted extensively about his upcoming LP ‘Loversity’, which is due out on the 4th of May. Be sure to check back with us for the forthcoming full interview, where he expands on the album’s unusual title as a theme for the songs it contains.

David Ramirez internal

My next stop was at the Back to the Source Stage for Austin native songwriter David Ramirez. I’d spied Ramirez and his bandmates earlier, walking around the Luck Ranch and enjoying the beautiful day ahead of their set. The informal atmosphere seemed very much to Ramirez’ liking, and he played a gorgeous show for the occasion, finding a pitch-perfect blend of old songs and new ones alike. He and his band were in top form here, showcasing themselves collectively under the newly minted moniker David Ramirez and the Hard Luck.

Jade Bird internal

I had noticed in passing that the Luck Chapel had a constant queue outside it throughout the afternoon. With a capacity of only 50 people, the intimate stage was in high demand all day long, but never more so than for British singer/songwriter Jade Bird. Disappointed that I wasn’t able to get inside to see her performance, I went around to the side of the building and spectated through an open window. The collection of punters standing outside with me were as delighted with Bird’s performance as the lucky ones who’d gotten in, and she quickly gained a reputation as “one to watch” for the remainder of SXSW. I was fortunate to hear Jade Bird sing again the following morning; keep an eye on TGTF for my Friday recap.

Hop Along internal

From there, it was a quick few steps back to the Revival Stage, where I saw a pair of rather unusual acts, Hop Along and Ezra Furman. Hop Along were unfamiliar to me, but I took an instant liking to lead singer Frances Quinlan’s voice. Their new album ‘Bark Your Head Off, Dog’ is an odd but appealing collection of songs painted with a broad sonic palette, out now via Saddle Creek. I was slightly more familiar with Ezra Furman, and the Luck Reunion seemed at first glance an odd choice of venue for his brand of angsty rock. However, if the event’s focus was indeed on “outlaws” of songwriting, Furman was in the right place, despite the oddity of seeing him perform in typically-female attire against the backdrop of a functional stable and horse pen. His recent fourth solo album ‘Transangelic Exodus’ is a brilliant and bizarre display of lyrical storytelling, out now on Bella Union.

Ezra Furman

By this point, I needed a break before hitting the World Headquarters Stage for evening sets by Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real, Kurt Vile, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, and of course, Willie Nelson and Family. Drinks at the Luck Reunion were complimentary and freely flowing at various locations throughout the day, but I took this time out to avail myself of the food choices provided by a selection of local vendors. There was no shortage of delicious options, and if you appreciate a deftly-designed culinary experience alongside your carefully-curated music, then the Luck Reunion would certainly be your cup of tea. Stay tuned to TGTF for my Thursday evening recap, which will include more from the Luck Reunion as well as two late night shows back in downtown Austin.

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018: best bets among American artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Wednesday, 28th February 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo: Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats by Brantley Gutierrez

As you might expect with an American music festival, SXSW is typically heavy on American showcasing artists, and SXSW 2018 won’t be any different. This year’s music festival lineup features a load of big names that you’ve probably heard before, along with a few new ones that, if they’re not familiar already, likely will become so very soon.

Our ongoing preview coverage of SXSW 2018 has already highlighted a few up-and-coming artists on the showcase schedule, including grunge rock band Bully and alt-country singer Courtney Marie Andrews. Perhaps the most intriguing of these is elusive Los Angeles alt-rock trio Lo Moon, who made mild waves with their SXSW appearance last year. I expect them to make a bigger splash this time around, on the strength of their just released self-titled LP, which includes new track ‘Wonderful Life’.

Among the major players heading to SXSW 2018 are a handful of TGTF alums who have broken through to mainstream success. We first covered songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff way back in 2011, but the course of his career dramatically changed in 2015, when he convened a new band called the Night Sweats and released their hit self-titled album. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats have recently announced a brand new LP called ‘Tearing at the Seams’, which is due for release just before SXSW on the 9th of March and features lead track ‘You Worry Me’.

North Carolina alt-pop duo Sylvan Esso previewed songs from their 2017 album ‘What Now’ at a surprise SXSW 2016 show; their appearance this year could once again herald new music on the horizon. Austin native David Ramirez wasn’t in top form when I saw him at SXSW 2017, but he may be in better shape this year, playing songs from his beautiful recent album ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’, which he has toured extensively since its release. SXSW 2015 showcasing artist Natalie Prass has just announced a brand new album ‘The Future and The Past’ due out on the 1st of June; she will presumably highlight its soul-tinged single ‘Short Court Style’ on her showcases in Austin next month.

Among other past TGTF mentions on the SXSW 2018 list are Nashville singer/songwriter Liza Anne, who will release her new album ‘Fine But Dying’ on the 9th of March and Milwaukee quartet Field Report, whose new album ‘Summertime Songs’ is previewed in the stream of ‘Never Look Back’ just below. Fellow Nashville singer Tristen and Philadelphia duo Vita and the Woolf, both acts we’ve coincidentally covered in conjunction with Irish alt-rockers Bell X1, also made the showcase list for this year’s festival in Austin, along with New York’s Sunflower Bean, who showcased at SXSW 2016, and L.A. rock band Warbly Jets, who made an appearance at SXSW last year.

American artists new to TGTF include Albert Hammond, Jr. of The Strokes fame, and Buck Meek of alt-rock band Big Thief, neither of whom we’ve seen in a solo capacity before. Satellite radio listeners here in the U.S. might already be familiar with Mt. Joy and NoMBe, who have both been featured on SiriusXM Alt-Nation, while public radio devotees will no doubt have heard Portland singer/songwriter Haley Heynderickx and New Orleans funk/soul group Tank and the Bangas on NPR.

For dedicated indie fans, a pair of duo acts, Denver’s Tennis and Baltimore’s Wye Oak have made the SXSW shout list, along with the always eccentric Okkervil River. In the heavily represented Americana category, sure winners include a trio of Nashville acts: singer/songwriter Nikki Lane, country rock trio Liz Cooper and the Stampede and veteran country/bluegrass collective Old Crow Medicine Show.

Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2018 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook or official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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