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Buck Meek

Sunday, May 26, 2024

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Brooklyn, NY

   Although best known as guitarist and backing vocalist for Big Thief, Buck Meek makes tender and melancholy, cowboy country-inflected songs as a soloist. He released his first short-form material in the months leading up to the formation of his Grammy-nominated, Billboard 200-charting indie band in 2014. His soft-spoken full-length solo debut, Buck Meek, appeared in 2018. The follow-ups, 2021's Two Saviors and 2023's Haunted Mountain, were increasingly collaborative affairs, recorded live to tape with the same core backing band giving life to Meek's sweetly earnest songcraft.
   Born in Wimberley, Texas, Alexander Buck Meek was raised by a glass artist and a child psychologist in Houston and, later, in Wimberley. He learned his first guitar chords from his mother around the age of six and played jazz manouche and outlaw country as a teen. Meek graduated from the Berklee College of Music in the late 2000s, finishing just as soon-to-be-collaborator Adrianne Lenker enrolled.
   Having relocated to Brooklyn from Boston, Meek ran into a newly arriving Lenker a few years later, and the two remembered each other from an interaction when they shared the same bill at a show in Boston. Fast friends and kindred musical spirits, they released two EPs as a duo in 2014 -- A-Sides and B-Sides -- before forming Big Thief with bass player Max Oleartchik and drummer James Krivchenia. Meek issued his debut studio EP, Heart Was Beat, in 2015. Among its collaborators were Lenker, Oleartchik, and Mat Davidson, aka Twain.
    Big Thief's first album, Masterpiece, followed on Saddle Creek in 2016, a year that also saw them make appearances at the South by Southwest Festival and in support slots on tours with Eleanor Friedberger, Frankie Cosmos, and M. Ward. They made their national TV debut with a performance on Late Night with Seth Meyers in March 2017. The quartet's second album, Capacity, arrived that June and reached the Top 20 of the Billboard Heatseekers, independent, Americana/folk, and vinyl charts.
    After touring in support of Capacity, including a headlining run and dates with Conor Oberst, Meek released his first solo album, Buck Meek, on Austin-based Keeled Scales that May. He later toured his solo material with Twain and opened over dozen shows for solo Jeff Tweedy in 2019.
    Back with Big Thief, their third straight album with producer Andrew Sarlo, the more exploratory U.F.O.F., marked the band's debut for 4AD in May 2019. They spent much of the rest of the year touring North America and Europe before issuing their fourth album, Two Hands, in October. It became their highest-charting record to date, reaching number 113 on the Billboard 200. As the year came to a close, Big Thief received a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album for U.F.O.F.
    After being forced off the road by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Meek recorded his second solo long-player, Two Saviors, with Davidson, brother Dylan Meek (keyboards,), Adam Brisbin (guitar), and Austin Vaughn (drums) as his backing band. The latter two had contributed to his debut album, as had returning engineers Phil Weinrobe and Sarlo. Two Saviors was released by Keeled Scales in January 2021.
   Meek rejoined Big Thief for the sprawling, Krivchenia-produced double album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You. After being whittled down from 45 to 20 songs, it arrived on 4AD in February 2022 and launched the band into the Top 40 of the Billboard 200, where it peaked at number 31. It also became their second album to be nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album, alongside a nomination for Best Alternative Music Performance for the song "Certainty."
  Meek signed with 4AD as a solo artist for his third solo long-player, Haunted Mountain. Recorded live in the studio to 2" tape as a group, it returned Two Saviors' backing band, adding dedicated bassist Ken Woodward to the ensemble. (Recordist/mixer Adrian Olsen also added touches of modular synthesizer to the album.) Produced by Davidson and inspired by love and related forces, Haunted Mountain arrived on 4AD in August 2023. Five of its songs, including the title track, were co-written with Jolie Holland.

- Marcy Donelson

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