Richard Buckner has spent the last few years trying to disrupt the dusky country-folk grace that marked his debut album, Bloomed (Dejadisc), in 1995. On last year’s Devotion + Doubt (MCA) he employed a revolving cast of musicians to rough up the textures of each tune; the result was a a fragmented quality that was part spontaneity, part indecision. That approach dominates again on the beautiful and impressionistic new Since–which features guitarist Dave Schramm, Son Volt steel guitarist Eric Heywood (Buckner’s only accompaniment on this tour), New York avant guitarist Chris Cochrane, and Chicagoans John McEntire on drums and David Grubbs on piano–and Buckner’s lyrics, which have always been introspective and a bit self-pitying, have grown oblique to boot. On paper they read like illogical snippets cribbed from a journal, but Buckner’s breathy phrasing transforms them into a series of enigmatic images open to interpretation–though it’s still clear that they’re the product of an incurably romantic mind. He finds himself in dead-end relationships, wonders aloud where old lovers are, and asks if they want to try again–and after a while, as Otis Clay would say, you wish someone would slap some sense into the guy. Buckner seems intent on testing just how far he can veer from any fixed elements in his stream-of-consciousness folk music; he’d do well to explore new lyrical waters while he’s at it. Friday, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. Also Saturday, 2 PM, Borders Books & Music, 2817 N. Clark; 773-935-4313. Peter Margasak

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by John Clark.