As can sometimes fortuitously happen in the case of your favourite artists, I discovered the band Buck & Evans completely by accident. They were playing the inaugural Ramblin’ Man Fair festival in 2015, buried in an unassuming mid-afternoon slot on the curiously titled ‘Outlaw’ Country Stage. I was expecting a couple of old timers dressed in dungarees behind a pair of battered acoustic guitars. Instead, I got a sensational ‘rock ‘n’ soul’ band; a guitarist whose playing belied his obviously modest years, a vocalist who’d have made Janis look twice and a rhythm section that would still have you moving if your feet had been nailed to the floor.
The guitarist is Chris Buck. He’s performed with Slash who called him a ‘f*cking awesome player’ and he now finds his face on the front of guitar magazines. The vocalist (and keys player) is Sally Ann Evans, who has also appeared onstage with Slash and who formed the Steelhouse rock club; a rock club that became ‘Britain’s highest festival’, sat amongst the Brecon Beacons above Ebbw Vale. The rhythm section are bassist Dominic Hill and drummer Bob Richards. Richards previously worked with Asia and was the go-to guy when AC/DC needed a drummer following Phil Rudd’s run in with the law in 2014. Richards’ performance on AC/DC’s Rock Or Bust video has received close to twenty-seven million views on YouTube.
The demands of photographing a music festival mean that you never spend more than ten minutes with the bands occupying the unassuming mid-afternoon slots. That’s not normally a problem, but it was a wrench dragging myself away from my first experience of Buck & Evans. And so I vowed it would not be my last. I’ve seen and snapped them a few times since and have loved every second of every show. The live performances are brilliant but the band have a distinct lack of recorded material. Aside from an eponymously titled 2014 EP and the 2015 EP release, Live At Rockfield (if you’re going to record anywhere, it might as well be at a legendary studio), there’s not much to find.
So, the question “When are you going to record an album?” was appearing on their Facebook page with unceasing regularity and it was one I put to Chris Buck when I interviewed him for RockShot late in 2015:
“I think it would be foolish to jump into a studio and push something out too soon and it’s a trap that a lot of bands fall into – seeing an album as kind of like a seminal moment and pushing it out too quickly for their own good – before they’ve established enough of a fan base that they need to build the popularity to get to a sophomore album. We’re constantly writing, playing and getting better as a band and it would be foolhardy to go in and do something yet…”
Well, two years on; the Facebook page ‘like’ counter is comfortably into five figures and the moment has finally arrived. In early July, Buck & Evans announced they were set to record their debut album; and in an increasingly common scenario for fiercely independent artists who wish to remain fiercely independent, that the album was to be resourced via crowdfunding – in this case through the PledgeMusic website. At the time of writing, the campaign is 93% funded. The band will surely reach the goal with room to spare – but the more funding they receive, the more money can be spent on the record.
I’ve done my bit. I initially pledged not a lot for a signed copy of the album; then, following a bit of fortuitous overtime I went completely mad and signed up for one of only four opportunities to have Buck & Evans perform an acoustic set in my front room. This cost considerably more, but to be honest still represented remarkable value for money when you know you’re booking out a few hours of the time of four professional musicians of this calibre. They’ve played with Slash. They’ve played Download. They’re playing my house. So, we’re having a Buck & Evans gig (hereinafter referred to as ‘LoungeStock’) round at ours and although my wife still thinks I’ve completely lost my mind, I couldn’t be more excited about it.
Having secured the band and a date, we set about looking for some support artists – you can’t run a ‘fest’ or a ‘stock’ with only one band after all. Luckily, our part of the world is blessed with young musicians and we’re especially fortunate to be on first name terms with two of them. Step forward, Gracie Spooner; a very talented seventeen-year-old singer/songwriter/guitarist who performs in various venues around and about and who fortunately for us happens to be a good friend of the family. Gracie is going to be joined by another prodigious talent and friend in the form of twenty-year-old Mack Hofberg, whose percussive fingerstyle guitar and voice are something to behold.
Gracie, Mack, Chris, Sally Ann, Dominic and Bob are going to give us and as many people as we can realistically fit in, a truly special night of live music and I don’t even have to go out the front door. Thrilling.
There are still two of the ‘House Concert’ opportunities up for grabs and I’d urge anybody reading this with a taste for the classiest of blues and soul infused music to consider pulling the trigger on one. Share the cost between twenty of your mates and it’s a good night out. Do the same with forty and it’s a pizza and bottle of beer. The sweet aftertaste of pepperoni and Peroni or the knowledge that Buck & Evans moved your floorboards for an hour or so? I know what I’d take.
As Chris Buck also said when we spoke in 2015: “If you’re going to put something out in the public domain forever, you’ve got to make sure it is as good as you can physically make it.” I could not agree more. Helping to have a part in it is just the icing on the cake.
The Buck & Evans PledgeMusic debut album campaign can be found here.