By Mike Dunn
Mariel Buckley’s sophomore full-length, Driving In The Dark, is a bold step forward in the Calgary singer-songwriter’s sound. While still drawing from the classic country themes of nostalgia, heartache, and the stark and honest admissions inherent to the style, Buckley has expanded her sound and writing style since 2014’s Motorhome. With the aid of producer Leeroy Stagger and a stellar crew of Alberta musicians, Buckley has fleshed out a full and lush roots rock sound that hits on a number of familiar touchstones, all tied together by her laid back and conversational vocal tone and her strengths as a songwriter.
“Wait” kicks off the record with the whole band dropping in on big shots that lay back just in time to give Buckley’s voice a nice landing spot on a bed of Michael Ayotte’s Hammond organ. Buckley’s devotion to country music is evident from the first line, “I shouldn’t call when I’ve had this much to drink,” while the choruses point the finger inward, at the one most often responsible for most any person’s deepest struggles.
Buckley’s been compared to a lot of high-level singer-songwriters, and for good reason. While comparisons to Lucinda Williams and k.d. Lang are appropriate given the style of Buckley’s writing, there’s a case to be made that her ability to shift styles shows a deep understanding and influence of Gram Parsons. Her voice isn’t the big jailbreaker, it’s subtle and her ability to evoke tough feelings with subtlety is commendable. Buckley and Stagger checked nearly every box creating an excellent roots rock record. Driving In The Dark catches a listener’s attention, and Mariel Buckley’s ability as a writer alone, whether self-accompanied or with a full complement of instrumentation, puts her in some rare air around here.Driving In The Dark, Independent, Mariel Buckley, Motorhome