Becky Buller Band - Crepe Paper Heart
Becky Buller’s first recording for Dark Shadow Recording, 2014’s ‘Tween Earth and Sky, moved this longtime side musician from the wings to center stage and she garnered considerable praise for both her instrumental talents, but her songwriting as well. The debut’s successor and Buller’s second solo release, Crepe Paper Heart, refines what we heard with that initial release and expands on her solo career’s possibilities by serving up another platter of twelve compositions, eleven of them original, positioning her with a number of top flight collaborators for both the songwriting chores and musical performances. It’s the same stew of religious themed and secular tunes distinguishing the earlier collection, but it’s obvious her songwriting talents are deeper than before and matches the expansiveness of her playing ability while never taking Buller far from her roots. Crepe Paper Heart is more than just a bluegrass or country music album – it’s a collection accessible to any listener and one sure to gain the favor of purist fans of the aforementioned styles as well.
“Bitter Springs to Big Trees” features the talents of Frank Solivan and has a poetic bent to the lyrical content that has a strongly imagistic air capable of drawing in even listeners who aren’t typical bluegrass listeners. As fine as a fiddle player as Buller is, her vocal talents are uniformly a strength of Crepe Paper Heart and the phrasing with this particular performance is especially stellar. “Heart of the House” is a much more downcast number, but Buller never allows the song to be mired in despair and invests it with a tremendous beauty that redeems any of the sadness lurking in the song’s core. It’s to Buller’s credit she never relies too heavily on instrumentals, unlike many of Buller’s peers, but “Cair Paravel” is an exceptional example of what you can accomplish with the form. There aren’t a lot of spiritual minded tunes on the album, frankly, as most of it predominantly leans towards the secular, but songs in that vein like “Speakin’ to that Mountain” are full of artful passion never threatening to overwhelm the audience and the nuance running throughout the piece.
Sam Bush’s collaboration with Buller, “The Rebel and the Rose”, has stronger narrative qualities than many of the earlier and later songs, but it’s never so pronounced as to throw the song out of whack. The lyrical content is exceptionally well written and there isn’t a single extraneous word. The melancholy quality of the earlier “Heart of the House” returns with the song “Maybe” and her beautifully wrought fiddle playing makes for one of the best tracks on Crepe Paper Heart. “Calamity Jane” is a pure bluegrass romp that never lets up and you can hear the enormous fun Buller has rolling through this track. This second release from the Becky Buller Band is an improvement over the fine album and shows Buller moving further towards secular numbers rather than heavily relying on sacred tracks. Crepe Paper Heart is one of the best releases of the year in this style and has the qualities necessary to appeal to a wide array of listeners.