Buck Meek: The Arc of Love and Loss
photo credit: Josh Goleman
When Big Thief guitarist Buck Meek set out to record his second solo album, Two Saviors, he did so with a rather extreme challenge in place: make a record in a week and record it live without headphones or an ability to listen to the sessions in real-time. “It was inspired by the birth of recording,” Meek says of the directive he received from his producer Andrew Sarlo, who has sat at the helm for every Big Thief album. “On these old Django Reinhardt recordings, people were brought into a studio and they only had one hour to record. They had a couple chances before they were kicked out and someone else came in.”
In 2019, Meek and his band set up shop at an old Victorian house in New Orleans, hoping to bring several years’ worth of songs to life. Many of the numbers were written during a period of transition for Meek; he moved to Topanga Canyon, Calif., and was living mostly in isolation, following a particularly painful breakup in New York City. Two Saviors explores that period with a lot of naturalistic imagery, but does so in a way that, much like Big Thief’s two 2019 releases, blends in more pronounced elements of Americana. On the bluesy, pedal steel-aided “Candle,” Meek’s phrasing sounds like a mash-up of Neil Young and The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy. “Dream Daughter” is a dreamy folk tune that finds Meek carrying much of the song’s weight with just his voice; it’s captivating to hear him croon delicately as he alternates between fantasy and longing, juxtaposing images of a would-be child with those of a blue jay on a kitchen perch.
For Meek, Two Saviors became a pre-pandemic moment of hope and discovery, a shedding of his past while trying to make something very immediate. “It’s the arc of falling in love—and moving into this loss of identity and slowly coming back into form,” Meet says, while calling from the mountains of Colorado. “The songs map out that whole process—the self-reflection that’s required to record an album with headphones in multiple takes. It’s beautiful, but it’s often exhausting. [With this process,] I felt rejuvenated.”