Review: Buck Meek – Two Saviors
National Music Reviews
Buck Meek = Kurt Vile + Hank Williams x Big Thief
After blowing fans away with two hard-hitting indie rock albums in 2019, the members of Big Thief have taken the last year as an opportunity to focus on their unique and equally hard-hitting solo projects. Two Saviors is the second solo LP from Big Thief guitarist Buck Meek, and it serves as yet another example of just how much talent these musicians possess, even when standing alone. For this release, producer Andrew Sarlo dreamt up an intense recording session in which Meek’s backing band would record all 11 tracks in a single week, during the hottest part of the year in New Orleans. Recorded live to tape, the resulting album is raw, limber and lighthearted, with an overall aura of radiated warmth.
Two Saviors is a deeply comforting listen full of upbeat storytelling and outlaw ballads. Buck’s bright and nasal Texan drawl evokes old-time country greats while his distinctive songwriting keeps the album rooted firmly in the genre of modern folk rock. On “Pareidolia,” two sweethearts lay in buffalo grass and daydream of shapes in the passing clouds. Wailing strings compliment a story of rekindled desire on “Candle.” The buoyant lyrics of “Second Sight” (“I work for free / And love is all I need”) are central to the mantra behind Two Saviors, that life’s comforts are made possible by friends, neighbors and strangers. Their service and kindnesses are generated by an unselfish, loving force that lives in all of us.
Buck’s first and self-titled release was a catchy and promising—but somewhat underdeveloped—sampler of 10 tracks, the majority of them less than three minutes long. Not only are the songs on Two Saviors longer and fuller, they also differ drastically from each other compared to the uniformity of Buck’s debut. The addition of bandmates Adam Brisbin (guitar), Mat Davidson (bass), Dylan Meek (piano) and Austin Vaughn (drums) is certainly a direct cause of this musical growth. All members contribute vocals and employ their instrumental talents to build upon Buck’s affable songwriting, pushing the unassertive album past what might otherwise be a pleasant but ordinary folk record.
Buck’s songwriting shines the brightest when he occasionally yields to tongue-in-cheek storytelling. Some of the most amusing lyrics on Two Saviors include those from “Ham on White,” where he exclaims in a drawn-out yodel, “Save me half of that sandwich, Annie / I haven’t eaten since 1995 / It’s a miracle I’m alive / Please spare my life / With ham on white tonight.” The talking dogs of drifters, willow tree hideaways and fantasy motels all play parts on this album, as does a woman named Sue, a recurring character in Buck’s solo projects. Each story shines like a golden light to internalize, bright with reminders of both mystical and simple things. It feels nice to meditate on those mantras, sometimes. “Thank God for coffee and apple pie,” Buck sings, soberly, at the end of “Pocketknife.” And while there are certainly other—and less sanguine—themes on Two Saviors, that sincere sentiment is the one I keep repeating. –Mekenna Malan