In a world of polished pop music, watered down punk and country music ripe for an elevator, it’s great to have musicians come along and hit you like a punch in the jaw. Someone that hollers songs and drips with emotion. Someone like Joe Buck. The scowling, mohawked, one-man rock show is also a philosopher, music historian and passionate purveyor of life. “Joe Buck Yourself” will perform Saturday at the Balcony Backstage, with local band Carcosa opening.
What should have been a short interview turned into a 45-minute monologue, a passionate diatribe that went from heavy metal to Hank Williams, critiques on modern music and society and even some hippie ideas on selfishness and humanity. At one point, he was yelling. Somewhere in there he talked about himself and his music.
“I’ve played music since I was a young kid. I don’t remember not playing music. It’s what we did in my family,” said Buck. “I never thought it could be a career until I hurt myself and couldn’t do this other thing I was going to do. I saw Van Halen in 1980 and Eddie Van Halen was having the time of his life. I said ‘That looks like a fun job.’”
Amidst the discovery of Van Halen and punk rock, this kid from a farm in Missouri that had no interest in country music because of what country music had become, heard Hank Williams. That led to what’s become a life-long pursuit of the originators of American roots music, the forgotten and even undiscovered gems of this art form.
“I realized I didn’t hate country music; I just hadn’t heard it,” said Buck. “I was like, ‘What the hell, now I have to find every record ever made to see what else they buried.’ How could I have been from a farm in rural Missouri and Hank Williams hadn’t been played every hour? It led me on a journey to find all this other music. Maybe I can do what I do and still do it at 53 years old is because I truly love this crap.”
Buck’s last time in Durango was more than 10 years ago, on a triple bill of The Legendary Shack Shakers, Hank III, and Hank III’s metal band, Assjack. Buck played in all three bands. While he’s a believer in the golden age of country music, his shows are a combination of the music that reared him, punk and country mixed into one rowdy cocktail.
“What I really don’t want to be is a singer-songwriter,” said Buck. “Which I am, but I think that’s so self-indulgent, to go ‘You pay me, and I’m going to travel and sit on my little stool and I’ll serenade you with my songs and the guitar.’ I gotta play loud.”
email@example.com. Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.