Review: Wisconsin, 2-13-63, Vol. 2 at (2009)

Wisconsin Cover 2 Although Bucky Halker is probably more likely to be filed under the folk section than any other, much of the music on Wisconsin 2-13-63, Vol. 2 actually fits better into the folk-rock, roots rock, or Americana categories. On a set of compositions written as far back as 1985 and as recently as 2007, Halker adeptly blends shades of Byrdsy folk-rock, honky tonk, swaggering bar band, blues, and even some relatively straight-ahead rock with somewhat Elvis Costello-ish vocals. The areas his songs address might be fairly familiar to this territory: hitting the road, regrets over romantic pitfalls, odes to inspirational singers (“T-Texas Tyler (In Idaho)”), hard times with no easy path out. Refreshingly, they’re essayed here not in the world-weary way so common to this sort of approach, but with more of an upbeat lilt that, if not exactly happy-go-lucky, avoids the implied self-pity so prevalent in many records covering similar ground. Halker’s singing is likeably earnest, but when he cedes a guest lead vocal to Janet Bean (most known for her work in Freakwater) for one of the most somber and strongest tunes, “Chequamegon (Winter Song),” it’s a real highlight.–Richie Unterberger

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