Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Joe Buck Yourself-Joe Buck Yourself

February 1, 2008

Joe Buck YourselfJoe Buck Yourself

Bucket City Agency

In-your-face, fuzzed-out Southern psychobilly that’s sure to singe your soul.

Armed with a beyond-the-grave howl and a ragged Mohawk, Joe Buck is one menacing dude. From the opening trio of chunky, distortion-enveloped chord-strikes on “Dig a Hole” straight through to the stumbling after-hours polka of “Intreatment All,” Joe Buck Yourself’s self-titled, debut full-length writhes through thirteen devilish tunes. With his move from side-kick upright bassist in Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, Joe Buck has roared into the role of one-man band with enough anger and flair to unseat the devil himself. Self-proclaimed as a “unique blend of hillbilly punk rock,” Joe Buck Yourself beats your ears into submission. You will listen.

Uniting Joe Buck Yourself is a contagious, straight-forward kick-drum that pulses its way through the thirteen tracks and an ungodly overdrive that’s sure to leave mangled eardrums in its wake. On the second track “Are You My Enemy?”, Joe Buck’s voice bounces between a central line and echoes that shoot by on the stereo left and right. Straightforward as a shotgun shot between the eyes, Buck howls “DIE! Motherf—er! DIE!” over the three-chord fuzz-box guitar riff and relentless drumbeat.

“The Devil is on His Way” falls somewhere between a Southern Baptist altar-call and a curse-fest from gym class. Opening with a drum beat reminiscent of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and amped up by tube-amp-busting overdriven guitar chords, “The Devil is on His Way” mercilessly mashes your ear into the speakers. On the chorus, Buck hollers down from his bar-stage pulpit: “Devil is on his way, fall to your knees, fall to your knees, Devil’s gonna make you pay,” with a convincing enough growl to make your skin crawl. Listening to the song, you nearly want to repent for sins you haven’t even committed.

I can’t honestly say Joe Buck is all snarl and sin; “Bitter is the Way” seems to have wandered out of an indie-folk album and snuck in the back-door of Joe Buck Yourself. There’s an ambiance in the song as though it was recorded in the nineteen-thirties on analog, reel-to-reel tape. Joe Buck pulls in the reigns of the fifty-car distortion-pile-up that typifies Joe Buck Yourself for nearly three minutes—a brief breather in a heart-attack of songs. I found “Bitter is The Way” to be my favorite song on the disc; Joe Buck does a bang-up job of sounding like an indie-folk singer, and his lyrics are both thoughtful and haunting—miles from the lyrics on “Devil is on his Way” (“Devil is on his way, motherf—er’s gonna make you pay!” ) and “Are you my Enemy?” (“Die! Motherf—er, die!” Buck’s voice waxes Waits-esque as he intones: “At the fool’s expense bitter finds a home. Bitter comes to stay. Bitter lingers on and bitter is the way. Bitter is the day, bitter comes in waves, bitter comes to stay. Bitter is the way to an early grave; for my soul to save for my soul I pray: cast bitter days away.”

I’m convinced that if Joe Buck were to write more songs like “Bitter is The Way,” he could make a lasting impact in neo-folk circles; the vocal tone he manages to get—a raspy gasp that dies away at the end of syllables with a hint of breath—is absolutely ear-grabbing. Of all the songs on Joe Buck Yourself, I’m wagering that this is Buck’s least favorite, but that doesn’t take anything away from it. I hope he keeps working on this vein of songwriting.

—Timothy C. Avery

Email: the_kitchen_sinks@yahoo.com

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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