By: Sahan Jayasuriya
Usually fronting the psychedelic country punk band Cherry Death, singer and guitarist Tim Buchanan has broken out on his own with an offering of gorgeously stripped down acoustic country tunes.
The inaugural release on Appleton’s Crutch of Memory label (run by the owners of the studio of the same name), Tim Buchanan With Dusk... And On His Own is a bit misleading of a title, as the album features only one track with Appleton’s premier country-rock act serving as Buchanan’s backing band. Regardless, the album’s nine songs showcase Buchanan’s knack for writing well-crafted and highly memorable tunes. Presenting songs in a stripped down form can expose their flaws but also amplify their strengths, but the album manages to avoid the former while succeeding at the latter.
The solo material has a distinct, spur of the moment intimacy to it, capturing the sound of Buchanan’s voice and guitar echoing gorgeously throughout Studio B at Crutch of Memory Studios. “Maybe I” marks one of the album’s many instances of giving the listener the feeling as though they are in the room with Buchanan, observing the performance in person. “Believe Me” recalls the charm of J Mascis’ solo acoustic material, with Buchanan drifting in and out of a hushed and soothing falsetto. “Just Got Home” marks yet another one of the album’s more intimate moments, with Buchanan’s slightly out of tune guitar sounding more charming than anything else.
This isn’t to discredit the contributions of his backing band, however, which includes Tenement’s Amos Pitsch on bass, Julia Blair on piano and vocals, Colin Wilde (who also performs under the Black Thumb moniker) on drums, Tyler Ditter on lead guitar, and Ryley Crowe on pedal steel. The album’s opening track “Grinnin” features the members of Dusk greatly enhancing Buchanan’s already strong material. While a solo acoustic version of the song appears midway through the album, “Grinnin” finds Buchanan being accompanied by the Fox Valley’s finest, adding lush Byrdsian vocal arrangements, an understated rhythmic accompaniment and a delightfully sweet pedal steel to the track. Although far more fleshed out than anything else on the album, “Grinnin” also manages to transport the listener to Studio B of Crutch of Memory Studios, sounding like a group of well rehearsed musicians playing in a room together.
More than anything, though, Tim Buchanan With Dusk... And On His Own sounds like what it is; a man, a guitar, and a few microphones capturing simple but impassioned performances. This sort of intimacy is hard to feign or replicate, and while many have tried, there’s no switch that can make a record sound stripped down, and no plugin that can make a performance sound more authentic. If this is a sign of things to come, we have much to look forward courtesy of the Crutch of Memory folks, as well as Dusk and Buchanan. Stream the album below.