album reviews

Buck 65
20 Odd Years
Warner Music (2011)

Kindred spirits: Busdriver, Aesop Rock, Tom Waits.

The album title "20 Odd Years" isn't an exaggeration for Canadian hip-hop artist Buck 65 (a.k.a. Richard Terfry), who recorded his first song in 1990. Rather than a greatest hits collection, however, the album combines three digital mini-albums, released last year, with four unreleased tracks.

Those disparate sources aren't really noticeable here, as the consistency of Terfry's voice gives "20 Odd Years" a cohesive feel. His voice is gravelly in texture but smooth in delivery; the momentum on the goofy "Zombie Delight" comes from his flow.

Still, too much spoken word can grow monotonous, and Terfry is served well by a stable of guest vocalists. Most famous among them is the Tragically Hip's Gord Downie, who adds a haunting moan to "Whispers of the Waves".

But Terfry's deep vocals are best balanced by women: Canadian songstress Jenn Grant's delicate voice augments the Leonard Cohen cover "Who by Fire" and gives a sultry melody to the folk guitar-accompanied "Paper Airplane".

Hannah Georgas turns the up-tempo "Stop" into a singalong dance-pop anthem, while French singers Olivia Ruiz and Marie-Pierre Arthur give an exotic flair to the songs "Tears of Your Heart" and "Final Approach", respectively.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 15 July 2011
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