Richard Buckner

Richard Buckner

In the time since Our Blood was released and after a few long tours, Richard Buckner attempted to work on writing short stories but found himself drawn back into the music room. The evidence of his time in the writer's chair is clear in the dense, lovely prose of Surrounded. The album's liner notes include text-embedded lyrics, a technique Buckner employed on his earlier albums Since and Impasse, but this marks the first time he used the songs' extended story to construct the album's overall view and track sequence.

Throwing out the "tricks and trades" of his previous efforts, Buckner hunkered down at home and chose a few unfamiliar pieces of gear-a Suzuki QChord electronic autoharp and an Electro-Harmonix POG2 pedal-to create basic tracks and open up more sonic possibilities. "The best outcomes happen sometimes when I'm unfamiliar with the tool that I'm using (imagine MacGyver wearing a dog cone)."

The now-infamous process of recording and re-recording Our Blood left him a bit gun-shy, so this time, Buckner decided to get each song out of his house as soon as it was finished to avoid the contamination of over-thinking. After hearing an interview with famed producer Tucker Martine, Buckner found a destination for his songs: "Tucker understood the urgency in me to tie the whole thing up before I fell into the same trap that I'd had finishing Our Blood and was generous enough to move other commitments around to fit Surrounded in. When I had finally finished Our Blood, I felt like I'd just survived a stroll through a mine field. With Surrounded, it was more of a sensation that I'd successfully organized a messy desk."

Melissa Swingle

Melissa Swingle’s status as a local songwriting heavyweight goes back to the mid ’90s, when she played in fantastically named Chapel Hill alt-country outfit Trailer Bride. After that band's dissolution, she balanced her vivid lyricism with hard-driven slide guitar in Southern blues-rock duo The Moaners. Now, with both bands split, she’s playing under her own name, or fronting a live incarnation called Melissa and the Swinglers. Under any name, she still delivers a blend of Johnny Cash’s good-natured twinkle, Tom Petty’s casual storytelling and Patti Smith’s dry, dry wit.

“We’re doing new stuff along with some really old songs that I haven’t played in years, so it’s been really fun just having a full band again,” she says. With Trailer Bride bandmate Tim Barnes in Swingle’s new outfit, some of that long-defunct band’s out-of-print songs have returned to the stage. Other members comes from local projects of note like Southern Culture on the Skids, giving Swingle’s new ensemble the legitimacy of experience and making it an easy project to play in. “I’ve known these guys for a while. It’s fun when we get together to play because it’s very relaxed.”

In fact, the band formed very casually: When The Moaners split in 2012, the breakup orphaned a show at Durham’s The Pinhook that Swingle still wanted to play. She wasn’t wild about playing alone, so she tapped a few friends, and soon, they were Swinglers. After years in a duo, she’s no longer responsible for all the melodies and guitar work. The literary Southern country-rock she has been playing around Chapel Hill for two-odd decades has found a comfortable—and fun—home.

“In a big band, I don’t have to use the loop pedal because I have more instrumentation going on,” she says, “so it really has freed my feet to dance a little bit more.” —Corbie Hill



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