T. Buckley “Frame by Frame”

Fallen Tree Records, 2021

A singer-songwriter who more than merits the title.

After some time waiting, finally a disc has landed that features words that are really worth a listen – a close listen. These are not just tales of he/she done me wrong, I will love you / hate you forever, or somebody ran over my dog called Blue in their John Deere / Pickup / RV (actually there has been a bit of a dearth of those recently). What Buckley offers is a range of songs about wider subjects that use language and rhyme cleverly and appropriately. There is a general avoidance of cliché while offering images to ponder, that rather than confuse open up new meaning. Buckley seems to use half-rhyme (I’m happy to be corrected on that one if necessary) regularly which is less of a constraint and therefore doesn’t compromise sense at the expense of ‘perfect’ rhyme. The lines, therefore, read (or sing) more coherently.

Trepidation abounds when an offering by an artist named ‘T Buckley’ turns up – what is this affectation you might ask – no name only an initial? But then if your name is Timothy and likely to become Tim then it’s likely that confusion could ensue. So we can go with T – and thankfully there isn’t actually a trace of affectation anywhere in sight.

Buckley comes from Calgary, Alberta and has 5 previous offerings to his credit starting with, ‘Roll On’, in 2011 – our loss would seem to be that he has never graced these pages before. It’s suggested that he is influenced by the ‘Texas Troubador’ tradition and in his quieter moments might remind you of Jesse Winchester. On this occasion, he is supported by a range of musicians including multi-instrumentalists Mitch Jay, Jesse Dollimont and Jeff Kynoch (who also produces), keyboardist Steve Fletcher, bassist Keith Rempel and drummer Dan Stadnick. In saying there are few musical highlights that actually constitutes a compliment inasmuch as the musicians provide a suitably sympathetic backing allowing Buckley’s voice and words to come very much to the fore. There’s no instrumental grandstanding here.

There isn’t a dud track on show and therefore picking highlights is shelling peas – and there are plenty of peas to choose from. The opener, ‘Wildfire’, is inspired by Buckley’s sister who is also a musician, as well as his youngest daughter both of whom he sees as kindred spirits, determined almost to the point of recklessness.

If there is a standout then it might be the second track, the quietly reflective acoustic ‘Fathers Child’ which deals with the realisation that so many of us share – that much as we wish it were not so that we mimic the worst traits of our parents – usually our fathers. Buckley has worked with young people in trouble and is seemingly well aware of the cycles that run in troubled families (see also, ‘Holding my Place’, which portrays the revolving-door aspect of our custodial institutions populated by young men with problems that most of us could not begin to imagine). Buckley skewers the father’s behaviour with great precision.

He would show me the good book then contradict each verse / With his Friday night behaviour on a Sunday after church …… He could hold a room in stitches, wrap ‘em round his finger one by one / When his light would shine upon you, it felt brighter than the sun

‘Before I Get to Turn Around’, reflects, ‘We used to tell ourselves it was just boys being boys / One day you are pushing forty, it’s still the same old noise’. There is a pleasing lack of any reluctance to call out bad behaviour as in, ‘Settlers Town,’ when Buckley remembers the bullying behaviour he witnessed toward a Blackfoot child. It is seen for what it is.

‘Marilyn’, bringing a new theme to the writing, was Buckley’s father in laws sister who died in a car accident. Her memory has been kept alive by the use of Marilyn as the middle name of Buckley’s child Ruthie – who he feels is particularly close to her grandfather – the original Marilyn’s brother. Life will continue even after the death of someone so close and Ruthie Marilyn is the living proof of the intimate circles and lines that connect us.

‘Frame by Frame’, is the other likely candidate for ‘best of’ after, ‘Fathers Child’. It tells the story of Buckley’s grandfather who we are told is still going strong at 92 and is described as a hard-working sharp-witted practical man – the grandfather we would all wish for and some of us are lucky to have. One of his foibles was to call all males George, hence these words of wisdom that Buckley tells us came his way.

George, it’s all about people. You can send letters and talk on the phone but it’ll never be the same as being together and sharing moments”.

And that is what this song is about as Buckley becomes his beloved grandfather.

Well, I used to roll my eyes at you, like my gal does to me /About all the things that I now emulate / How I drive like I’m still living in the country / How I use a piece of bread to clean my plate / And we’re running out of spaces to keep all of these spare parts / I’m hanging on to just in case. 

The album concludes with. ‘Solid Ground’, which Buckley tells us is about the ‘boom or bust history of Alberta since the settlers arrived and a bit of a dig at Alberta’s tendency to push the “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” narrative. ‘The Sweater’, conjures up all the images a simple piece of clothing can bring back whilst ‘After You Got Back, is a curiously upbeat spacey tune that seems to introduce the affairs of men and women for the first and last time, though Buckley doesn’t give too much away. Don’t get it wrong, there’s no prejudice here against such songs but it’s nice that for once they are in the minority.

Finally, on the CD there seems to be a bonus track, ‘My First Guitar’, which has no mention on the sleeve nor lyrics attached. It’s most likely subject is just what it says on the tin?

Everything here is highly recommended and whether it’s T or Tim this is a man with a talent for songwriting and the ability to cover a good range of subjects. He has a good voice and a group of musicians who provide quietly skilful effective backing for the frontman. What more could you want?

8/10
8/10

About Gordon Sharpe 117 Articles
Retired music fan longing to get back to the Lakes and hoping to visit Scotland before much longer - somehow South Cheshire just doesn't cut it. Still seeking the grail in terms of a convincing description of what Americana really is but really enjoying the search. And still wondering when Kenny Rogers will get his just deserts

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