Becky Buller Band – Crepe Paper Heart
The poetic title of Becky Buller’s second solo recording for the Dark Shadow Recording label, Crepe Paper Heart, reflects one central fact about Buller’s songwriting and musical acumen – this isn’t an artist and performer exclusively concerned with conforming to formula and intent on carving out her own niche in a genre that, too many, seems drained of surprise. Instead, Buller proves traditional bluegrass is far more alive than innumerable covers of standards and talented writers can adopt the style as a vehicle for personal expression every bit as vital as anything considered standard canon in the genre’s catalog. The guests joining Buller for this release contribute mightily to the quality of the overall product without ever drawing too much attention to themselves and the production further enhances the package in such a way that it isn’t any stretch to regard this as the peak of her career so far.
“Another Love Gone Wrong” is one of the songs with a strong bluesy influence running through it, but the bluegrass flavor of the song is never unduly obscured. Her vocals are full of energy and crackle with inspiration on this song and others – however, there’s a lot of nuance in what she does and there’s never a sense of her running full flight all the time. “Bitter Springs to Big Trees” dispenses with the echoes of traditional bluegrass and blues we hear in the opener in favor of a more individual style with an equal focus applied to the lyrical content and a lot of poetry in the song’s content. She sings in such a way that we see the images her songwriting paints and this song, despite its rural imagery, will resonate with any attentive and feeling listener. “John D. Champion” demonstrates how traditional lyrical content and formulas can be revamped ad refurbished for a modern audience while still remaining tightly tethered to her roots. Her fiddle playing could dominate the entire album, but instead she chooses to blend her fiddle playing into the greater whole of an arrangement that captures your attention from the first and never lets go.
“Heart of the House” is the first truly sad number on Crepe Paper Heart and Buller never lapses into sentimentality. Instead, this is a song with desolate and bitter realities at the center of the number and her singing milks the lyric for every bit of drama present in the lyrical content. “The Rebel and the Rose” indulges her talent for the storytelling side of Buller’s musical talents and bubbles with vivid imagery that never relents. There’s an element of character examination going on with that song, but she takes it a little further with the next song “She Loved Sunflowers”, but there’s aching and pain never far from the surface of either song. The album’s final song “Written in the Back of the Book” focuses its attention on a winning vocal and the contributions from vocal group The Fairfield Four contribute greatly to the song’s ultimate success. Crepe Paper Heart is a lovely and entertaining effort from the first and holds up under repeated listens. It marks Buller’s peak thus far and there’s no doubt these tunes are stage ready for Buller’s busy live schedule.