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Glimpses of bigger stories

Singer-songwriter Buck Meek evokes a ramshackle, Southern-fried Nick Drake

Buck Meek approaches country and folk from an offbeat direction. Photo credit: Adrianne Lenkerr

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Every so often, out of fascination and sadness, I take another look at the career of poor Nick Drake. The English singer-songwriter managed to release just three albums before his untimely death at the age of 26. His first, the lovely and achingly poetic Five Leaves Left, seems like exactly the kind of debut album that should turn heads and get the burgeoning artist plenty of attention. When the album flopped, Drake returned with his sophomore attempt, Bryter Layter, which significantly expanded his sonic palette -- the relatively spare sound of his debut was augmented with lush strings and sumptuous horns. The result was a positively gorgeous record that also failed to capture the public's interest. Drake's third and final album, Pink Moon, is a shatteringly bleak affair, with practically everything stripped away besides Drake and his guitar.

Drake would find posthumous success over 20 years after his death, when a car company featured one of his songs in a commercial, which I'm pretty sure is the textbook definition of "bittersweet."

I get a bit of a Nick Drake vibe off of Texan singer-songwriter Buck Meek -- not the depressed, reclusive Drake of Pink Moon, but the cautiously hopeful, earthy expressiveness of Drake's first two albums. Meek's 2018 self-titled debut album is bustling with a ramshackle charm, offset by a sweetness in Meek's voice and an openness to his lyrics. Like a less languid Phosphorescent, a less bitter Lambchop, or a less fiery the Tallest Man on Earth, Meek tackles folk and country from an offbeat direction, celebrating classic sounds and tropes as much as he subverts them.

Meek's songs play like fleeting glimpses at larger stories, suggesting whole worlds just outside the parameters of his lyrics. Some songs, like the strikingly brief "Exit 7 Roses," are presented as intimate home recordings, seemingly put on tape the moment inspiration hits; others, like "Cannonball!" and the Harry Nilsson-esque "Maybe," carry the warmth and playfulness of a full band. In either case, Meek remains the tender nucleus at the heart of these songs, his gentle voice sometimes cracking when he starts to get more boisterous. While Meek may be more Southern-fried than Drake, his songs (especially the exquisite "Joe By The Book") have the capacity to evoke the low clouds of the English countryside. Here's to Meek getting recognition in his time.

BUCK MEEK, w/ Twain, Lace Banjo, Pigtails, 10 p.m., Sunday, Octapas Cafe, all ages, 414 E. 4th Ave., Olympia, $7, 360.878.9333,


Meanwhile, Friday in Tacoma finds two exciting shows happening on two different stages in resident live music emporium Alma Mater. First up, on the big stage at Fawcett Hall, we've got the lustrous soul of Grace Love and the Dirty Church. The Seattle artist was raised in Tacoma, which she credits with lending her sound just a little more grit. What's for sale, with Love, is her rich, stirring voice, which blends sublimely with her honest and forthright lyrics. On her 2017 EP Holy, Love incorporates unorthodox instrumentation to her songs, which stretches her soul aspirations into areas like chamber pop and breakbeat electronica, her voice serving as the element that ties everything together.

GRACE LOVE AND THE DIRTY CHURCH, w/ Mirrorgloss, 8 p.m., Friday, Fawcett Hall at Alma Mater, 1322 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, $12-14, 253.302.3926,

Meanwhile, on the smaller stage at Alma Mater's cafe, Honey, Henry Chadwick will be performing. Chadwick, a California singer-songwriter, got a bit of attention in 2016 with the release of his Guest at Home EP. In 2018, Chadwick released his debut full-length, Marlin Fisher, which builds upon Chadwick's earlier efforts, blending ‘90s slacker rock with ‘80s power-pop and ‘60s spaciness. Chadwick and his band have a knack for imbuing every moment with an undeniably undercurrent, causing the listener to lose time as they find themselves suddenly having the play the album over again. As laid-back as this material is, Chadwick has a streak of underplayed swagger that runs through his songs.

HENRY CHADWICK, w/ Trusty Sea Creatures, Big Sky Mind, 8 p.m., Friday, Honey at Alma Mater, all ages, 1322 Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, $8, 253.302.3926,

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