Music

Mariel Buckley makes a bold statement with her wonderful sophomore album Driving In the Dark

A statement.

A bold one. An adamant one. A definitive one. A confident one.

A wonderful one.

It’s impossible to hear Driving In the Dark, the sophomore album from Calgary singer-songwriter Mariel Buckley, and not view it as that — a statement.

She has arrived, she is here, and she’s only going to get better, give us more goodness for a long, long time.

The album, which she’ll release Friday, May 4 with a Festival Hall show, is a roots-rooted record in the vein — lyrically, sonically, atmospherically — of Kathleen Edwards’ Asking for Flowers, one that crosses the former classic country artist over into a world that’s richer, fuller, warmer, more melodic and intensely personal.

Yes, there are elements of C&W on the album — hear the very Whitney Rose-esque Rose Coloured Frames — but they’re more just … songs. Just that. Just Mariel Buckley. Period.

“I think there was a part of this record that was we were finding my sound,” Buckley says over an afternoon pint of Guinness at the Ship & Anchor. “And we sort of naturally fell into that.

“I said, ‘I don’t want to make a traditional country record, I don’t want to go the way of the dodo and make music for old dudes, I want to make something relevant and current to me.’

“And that’s what we ended up with … It organically just went there.”

The “we” is actually a dream team of Buckley believers — area musicians, mixers and masterers, who brought their best game to match Buckley’s. The album was recorded mainly live and off-the-floor in the Lethbridge home studio of Leeroy Stagger and features work on it from such folks as Russell Broom, Josh Rob Gwillam, members of Stagger’s band and Mariel’s brother T. Buckley.

Despite an overdub or two and some post-polish to give it that cohesive feel — again, with an ear towards Edwards’ own timeless, 2008 statement and that of, say, Patty Griffin with her Flaming Red, Lucinda Williams and Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, Emmylou Harris’s Wrecking Ball — it maintains the energy of the performances and gives Buckley the proper soapbox she wanted and, frankly, the 10 tracks deserve.

“The songs themselves needed production because they’re kind of angsty and I wanted to shout a little bit. It’s not really a record where I wanted to stay in the background like a wallflower and cry about something. I wanted to cry loudly,” she says.

“I’m at a point in my career — well, what am I even saying? I’m only six years in — but I don’t want to pull any punches, I don’t want to fuck around, I don’t want to make a bullshit album that doesn’t represent me and I don’t want to do something because I feel like that’s what I should do.

“And I think my first efforts were indicative of wanting to fit in somewhere.”

Again, she points to her self-titled debut and acclaimed 2014 full-length Motorhome, an album that announced her arrival onto the scene and quickly earned her a place in the hearts of honky-tonk-lovers.

And while she obviously still stands by her past efforts and is thankful for how quickly they elevated her in the community, getting her on some of the most sought-after stages, she didn’t want to keep cramming her thoughts into the bootheels of a classic country sound.

“I just didn’t want to mould myself for anybody,” she says. “These were just very honest tunes that came out of me.”

As for where they came from, well, listen to them. It’s all there, nothing hidden, nothing cloaked in vagueness or ridiculous metaphors.

It is the human condition, Buckley’s experiences with and observations on the human condition, her condition, laid bare, which makes the songs that much more authentic and compelling, her voice the only one to tell them.

“I went through some highs and lows in my personal life, I had some lows financially. It was a pretty wild last couple of years …”

She laughs. “All the best ingredients for a good record.”

And her hopes for it? Where does she hope it takes her? What does she want the, presumably, many people who hear Driving In the Dark to take away from it?

“I just want people to hear that I worked really hard on these songs and this record and that I really give a shit.”

Statement made.

(Photo courtesy Unfolding Creative Photography.)

Mariel Buckley releases Driving In the Dark with a show Friday, May 4 at Festival Hall. The show is sold out.

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