Clarence Bucaro Soulfully Channels Art and Politics on “Passionate Kind’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

The first thing that strikes you when listening to Clarence Bucaro is his clear, soulful voice, one that could keep your attention for hours on end. Then, as you move more deeply into Bucaro’s Passionate Kind his songwriting and storytelling become compelling too. Bucaro is a literary writer, one who reads plenty of classic literature and watches a good amount of opera. One would not necessarily associate this same person as an artist who toured with The Blind Boys of Alabama and Mavis Staples but Bucaro possesses a deep kind of soul too. The combination makes for a gripping listen.

This is Bucaro’s twelfth album and it was recorded in Chicago with co-producer Tom Schick (Wilco, Ryan Adams) featuring top shelf players Chris Farney (Josh Radin) on drums, Scott Ligon (NRBQ) on piano and bass, and Doug Pettibone (Lucinda Williams) on guitar. Bucaro also plays guitar and piano for these ten originals.

The album begins with a few strums of the acoustic guitar as Bucaro sings the title track, at first alone and then joined by his bandmates on background vocals and sparse instrumentation. The tune was written in honor of old and new heroines gleaned from his reading where the presence of females is often allegorical. He finds in the past year or so the dawning o a new era as females have spoken out more courageously. He’s in awe of how powerful many women are.

Most of the album, not unlike that current thought, reflects Bucaro’s inner view of what’s happening currently. Many are topical.  Some are provocative. Perhaps the best example is in “Where Do I Go?” He opens the song asking whether this is a breakdown or a breakthrough.  Bucaro finds himself asking lots of rhetorical questions stimulated by our post-election state, using lyrics like “I’m not scared but I’m not well” before the chorus of “I got to know where do we go from here.” Similarly, in “Sleepwalker” he writes about a kind of paralysis.  Bucaro says, “He is a zombie. He goes through the motions. He hates it, but he’s stuck in a trance. He needs to shake his funk and see the light.” Dreaming, in a different way, is also the subject of “City of Lights” where the writer finds himself in Paris amongst the ghost of great artists, hoping that one day his work can match the surrounding inspiration.

Toward the latter part of album Bucaro moves away from the politically motivated songs, to a relationship tune in “Maybe You Should Go” and reflections on youth in “21.” And, to emphasize his current stance on life with the refrain “Can’t keep living yesterday” in the song “Living Yesterday.”  He concludes with a great evocative tune “Songbird’ with its indelible line – “Sometimes no one hears the songbird in your mind.”

Bucaro’s muse is strong and we hear him clearly. Despite the angst, his voice is comforting.

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