I have a problem with Becky Buller. There I said it.
My problem: After a couple of earlier reviews of Becky’s music, I’m running out of adjectives to describe her latest Dark Shadow Recording project, Crepe Paper Heart.
How many ways are there, in the English language at least, to say “wow,” “spectacular,” “how’d she do that” and so on?
So let me put it this way: Buy this record. Don’t just stream it. Don’t just wait for these new songs to pop up on the radio. Buy it. Play it. Enjoy it. You won’t be disappointed.
Becky’s body of work is already vast and impressive, as a songwriter and as artist, and she has the awards and accolades to back it up. But, as Crepe Paper Heart demonstrates, she’s not about to rest on her laurels.
From the opening notes of Another Love Gone Wrong to the closing of Phoenix Arise, the 12 songs will take you on an emotional roller coaster of thrills, tears, longing and loss. The stories are compelling, as her songs tend to be. And the performances are top drawer. Again, that’s no surprise if you’ve followed her on stage and on record. With the collective strength of her band and an all-star lineup of guests, anything less would be shocking.
But I’ve said many of those things about Becky’s past projects. So why am I ready to proclaim that this is her best work yet? Because the melodies are some of the most compelling and memorable that I’ve heard, any record, any genre. They take the songs to a whole new level of excellence.
There’s one potential drawback. Don’t be surprised if you wake up in the middle of night with a song running through your head, and when you place it, it’s one from Crepe Paper Heart. For me, the earworm is Written In The Back Of The Book, Becky’s retelling of the final chapter in The Bible, The Revelation of St. John The Divine. The powerful arrangement features Becky and members of the legendary Fairfield Four trading vocal licks and fills. (Fans newer to bluegrass are in for a treat if they revisit the Four’s earlier work with The Nashville Bluegrass Band).
But my favorite three songs on the album are about loss, remembrance and recovery. Heart of the House makes me think of my late mother, so I wasn’t surprised to learn that Becky wrote it in memory of her mother-in-law, Lora Haley, and in honor of her father-in-law, Sterling Haley. In the same vein, She Loved Sunflowers is a tribute to Tamara Brooks, the late daughter of Becky’s friends. Both songs are reminders that music heals, and that something beautiful can come from a place of pain.
The final song in my trilogy is the ultimate story about destruction and rebirth. Phoenix Arise, by Lisa Aschmann and Mark Simos, was released as a single to help raise money after a fire destroyed downtown Madelia, MN, in Becky’s home county. Like the mythical Phoenix, the businesses rose from the ashes and reopened last year.
Part of the fun, overall, is picking out the contributions of Sam Bush, Rhonda Vincent, Claire Lynch, Frank Solivan and Rob Ickes.
But mostly, the beauty in Crepe Paper Heart is letting the melodies and the superb production by Stephen Mougin sweep you away. These are times that invite getting lost in music, and this is a great record to get lost in.