Buster Blue’s first collection of songs, This Beard Grows For Freedom, was a big, boisterous, brassy affair. Their second, When the Silver’s Gone, introduced a more introspective sound. The following EP, Still on Conway, had the band stripping their sound down to whatever it was they could do with the instruments that they could actually use while stranded on a mountain pass.
This musical journey is a good preparation for the band’s latest offering, Sleep Less Where the Heart Is.
The brass has been replaced with a string and bow in parts of Buster Blue’s sound. The jams and the songs have gotten longer. The band’s excellent composition skills are at play delivering songs of all kinds.
The album leads off with acapella and handclaps and takes a tremendous romp through a country-western sound, and a smattering of the blues and jazz band influences that have become a hallmark of this band.
There are some new things on this album, and they are best represented by the performance in the song Leave me in Couer D’Alene. Everything about this song is an interesting new direction for Buster Blue. It starts off very French, then quickly takes a turn into a New Orleans jazz orchestra direction. Bryan Jones’ vocals waver between quiet and wondering and tortured and desperate all in the first stanza. At just north of 4 minutes, this song pulls a unifying theme through for the listener a few times, and represents a terrific departure into longer-length songs for Buster Blue. The choral element that is present throughout the album also shines through here.
Another example of a departure from the previous Buster Blue sound, while continuing the spirit of the tradition, is Magnetic Pull. Andrew Martin’s falsetto voice starts the song and leaves you thinking you might be listening to one of his signature quiet acoustic songs. But then, something happens. Layers of sound begin to appear, and suddenly, it’s no longer a quiet song with just an acoustic guitar providing the accompaniment. Movements, concentrated bursts of energy accompany the song through to the conclusion. You will find the same thing on Hallucinating in C# Minor.
The biggest departure of all is the direction that the band takes on Visions of Laredo. This is a solid, marketable alt-country number, featuring a country yodel sound from Bryan Jones’ vocals, and Brendon Lund’s bass conjuring up a classic country sound. Then, a lead electric guitar comes in and carries the song out.
There’s more to hear on this album. Piano figures throughout much more heavily than in previous Buster Blue work. Perhaps not surprisingly, the songs are mostly fairly dark paeans to perfect love pulled away suddenly, as if the songwriters only have one way they experience love. The good news is, like on their previous efforts, the music they wed to these themes provides the perfect vehicle to convey the messages.
Get a copy of this album. You will be glad you did.