Berkshire County singer-songwriter Wes Buckley released his vinyl record debut this week on a brand new label based in North Adams, Massachusetts.
Buckley, 37, is a Berkshire native, and from years of gigging around the county as a solo artist and a hired gun, describes himself as embedded in the community.
“I play, as you said, as a songwriter on my own," said Buckley. "I play as a guitar player for people and do pickup gigs and use music as a therapeutic way for work as well, so – all around, 100% Berkshires.”
Through teaching, Buckley’s music has taken him off the stage and into the lives of a variety of Berkshire populations.
“I’ve done some work with the jail, work with seniors, work for Community Access For the Arts doing music programming with people with disabilities and at various area schools,” he told WAMC.
This week, he released his debut LP as a solo artist.
“The record is called The Towering Ground," said Buckley. "It has a lot of different meanings, and I can say that one of them was the idea that I recorded it in a basement in Pittsfield, and I thought of the music as just growing right out of the ground and then being offered up.”
“A lot of what I hear in his sound is some of my favorite folk artists," said Wesley Nelson, one half of Half A Million Records, the label he runs with his wife Andrea Belair along with the Belltower Records store at the NORAD Mill in North Adams. Buckley’s debut is also the first LP release for the label.
“I hear a lot of Michael Hurley in his music," Nelson told WAMC. "I also hear a lot of kind of more traditional forms. There’s a little bit of bluegrass influence in some of his stuff, there’s some singer-songwriter stuff. I thought that David Crosby, his classic If I Could Only Remember My Name, I heard some of that in here too. It’s just kind of like a wide swath of, I think, folk-based influence on this record, along with just some really stellar songwriting chops.”
“I made a really strong effort to craft pretty concise tunes this time around, and really focus on the lyrical content," explained Buckley. He says the songs on The Towering Ground examine the trials and tribulations of the community around him.
“There’s songs that are about opioid addiction, about loss due to suicide, about income inequality, about technology – there’s a lot about technology – and just kind of a lot of the issues that are, I think, on a lot of people’s minds," he told WAMC. "But I really liked the idea of constantly pushing those up against and blending them with the, what I saw as the macro view or the other side of the coin, that we’re on a planet, floating in the middle of nowhere.”
Early reviews for Buckey’s debut have been positive, with Dusted Magazine describing The Towering Ground as “[crackling] with giddy, off-kilter energy,” and the artist himself as “in on the grand cosmic joke, grinning at you sideways while finding revelation on a dirt path through the woods.”
“It feels really exciting, because being the first LP, I can’t imagine that there won’t be a second," said Buckley. "I like that idea, I’m already thinking, you know?”