Essential New Music: Buck Curran’s “No Love Is Sorrow”

To misquote Bob Dylan, the times they are putting us through some changes. 2020 should’ve been a good year for Buck Curran. The American guitarist and singer, formerly a member of long-running duo Arborea, was looking forward to the release of a new album on ESP-Disk and the birth of his second child with his Italian wife, Adele Pappalardo. But then COVID-19 happened, and one of the places it hit hardest was their home base of Bergamo. With mouths to feed, and stores, venues and production facilities shut down, Curran decided to move up his record’s release and put out No Love Is Sorrow as a download on his own Obsolete imprint.  

A luthier as well as a musician, Curran is steeped in guitar lore, and it shows. Most of the record’s music, which is split between vocal and instrumental pieces, is built from layered guitar tracks that reference styles without being locked into them. The title of the opener, “Blue Raga,” cues the listener for an American Primitive-style fantasia, but Curran’s percussive rhythm playing has at least as much to do with British folkies like Martin Carthy and Richard Thompson. Sustained electric notes sound an alarm on “One Evening,” while Curran predicts dire happenings before pledging to stay near his love ones; it may have been recorded last year, but it seems quite pertinent to the present time. 

As the album’s title suggests, love is Dr. Curran’s prescription to heal what ails you, but the time he devotes to elegant licks suggests that the sounds of six strings ringing out is his preferred potentiator. And because downloads aren’t as time-limited as vinyl LPs, Curran has appended four alternate versions to the album’s end. They aren’t dramatically different from the originals, but whether you’re commuting with a mask at the ready or quarantined at home, you’re bound to have some time on your hands to consider the details that define them. 

—Bill Meyer