How Buck 65 found rural Canada in the side streets of Paris
Who: Buck 65
Where: Garibaldi Lift Co. (GLC)
When: Wednesday, Jan. 21
Buck 65 is listening to Bob Dylan. The unmistakable squeaky harmonica and simple guitar chords have soundtracked a conversation that so far has touched on everything from artistic pilgrimages, to books, to homeless people to college radio.
But suddenly, Dylan is front and centre. "Listen to this," says Buck (real name: Rich Terfry, but who's counting?) disappearing for a second to turn up the volume for a few phrases, delivered in the unmistakable laconic tuneless style that made the folksman a legend.
"He's rappin'!" says Buck with almost childlike glee. "I know he picked that up from Woody Guthrie and old blues records and stuff, but to me that's where I'm at and that's the most exciting thing in the world."
If Dylan is a rapper it makes it somehow OK to apply the title to Buck 65. The Nova Scotia solo artist now based in Montreal, via a sojourn to Paris, turns out a blend of folk music, country twang guitar riffs, hip-hop beats and beat poetry that gets filed under rap for lack of any other category.
There's no reference to standard genre fare on his latest album, Talkin' Honky Blues , a masterful ode to a small town childhood and raw human emotion - both good and bad. Instead of booty calls and libido braggadocio there's a heartfelt deconstruction of a relationship torn in half by cheating. Instead of shout-outs to tha' homiez over shiny samples there's quirky descriptions of the down and out that fall beneath the cracks of society's polished veneer set to lumbering accordion riffs reminiscent of a 1930s traveling freak show.
The fact that he has been able to mould hip-hop to fit with Maritime rural roots, a literary love for authors like George Orwell, Charles Bukowski, and William Burroughs, an artistic people-watching infatuation, and a folk-twang tradition has made him somewhat of an anomaly. This puzzles him to no end.
"People think I'm some sort of weirdo, but I think I'm just more based in tradition than anything else," he says, his gravelly voice matching the hard luck delivery from his recordings.
"I think it's weird when you don't have any roots to anything," he continues.
Modern glossy hip-hop creations like 50-Cent he deems as surreal as a Dali painting.
"It's funny more people don't see it as surreal. I see it as surreal," he muses. "What the hell is it? I don't know what that is. It's like the guy pulling the piano with the dead horses on top of it and stuff."