Album Review: Bob Bucko Jr – I Did What I Could With What I Had

Bob Bucko Jr

I Did What I Could With What I Had

Unless you are a devotee of uninterrupted streaming, or 5-disc CD changers, you know that there’s an eerie silence that lingers after an album is over. It can shock you out of your reverie, demolish whatever translated worldview your music of choice has created for you. It’s how you realize that the world around you is lacking.

On Bob Bucko, Jr’s I Did What I Could With What I Had, you don’t notice it for a while.

The music on this record seeps into you and stays there. It has a tenacity that helps it maintain a presence long after the audio has faded. When you come back to reality, it’s slowly, almost gently, like finishing a guided meditation. This is an album that awakens unexpected parts of your brain and engages them, seduces them, captures them. Even if you think it’s on in the background, it affects the way you think, the way you approach what you’re doing. It’s music for writing poetry.

The album is primarily instrumental; it dips into vocals just twice. On both of those tracks, Bucko’s delicious raspy growl, channeling Curt Kirkwood circa 1984 (with a hint of early Wayne Coyne), layers perfectly over some of the more traditional tonalities on the album. They are perfectly placed, at track two and track nine (the record’s penultimate), to catch you and then let you go again. Making them bookends would have given them too much defining power over the album’s character, but burying them deeper would’ve lessened their impact. As it is, they are lifts — those deep inhalations of breath right after you first fall asleep and just before you’re ready to wake up again.

I Did What I Could With What I Had is refreshingly difficult to pin down, stylistically, but its jazz sensibilities are foregrounded even when the instrumentation doesn’t strictly support them. Bucko is backed on the record by Drew Bissell, Rick Eagle, Shawn Healy and Curt Oren. There are no liner notes to make clear the roles of the band (a minor disappointment in an otherwise spectacular physical design) but who does what almost feels irrelevant. These songs demand musicians at the top of their games, and that’s what’s here.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 195.

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