HUMBUCKY * * * * (4 stars) Two years on from first LP Delicate Shades Of Grey, Anglo-American duo Cicero Buck return with a more strident, confident set of folk-pop songs. Songwriter/vocalist Kris Wilkinson is particularly effervescent on the tough 'Gonna Fly' (with bluesy squeals of guitar) and the rippling Nashville skiffle of 'Little Songbird'. Muscle Shoals veteran Jack Peck, meanwhile, adds blasts of brass to the dusty twang of 'Black Road'. Wilkinson (despite the Yankee blood) sounds very English in her Sandy Denny-like delivery, whilst partner Joe (ex-The Lover Speaks) Hughes adds loping bass, background vocals and a taste of the familiar with a stripped reworking of his own 'No More I Love You's' (a huge '90's hit for Annie Lennox). Fresh and feisty. - Rob Hughes, Uncut December '04 Your favorite Americana/folk-pop duo return with an absolute gem of an album. Taking their songwriting and production to new levels, this one has a bit of jazz, a bit of New Orleans blues and a bit of innovative production, that 'Jon Brion sound ala Aimee Mann' thanks to co-producer Nick Swannell. The vocals on this album are exceptional. And some of the ballads just leave you speechless. But it's not all ballads and vocals, there is some interesting stuff here - so much so that some reviewers have said 'everyone must own a copy of this album', 'perfectly crafted adult pop songs' and 'humdinger'. It's a great younger sibling to Cicero Buck's first effort 'Delicate Shades of Grey'. The Story of Humbucky: We needed a dat transferred to CD and that's where it all began. We found 'Rockfish Music' on the internet - it was located in Bedford, UK and that made it easy for us. Nick Swannell turned out to be an excellent fella, like minded in musical tastes and styles, a great songwriter, guitarist and producer. It seemed like we were both waiting to meet eachother and then suddenly, we did. Nick took an acoustic version of 'Lie on the Horizon' (our opening track) and of his own volition, gave us back the song you hear on the CD. He hoped we liked what he did. Did we ever! When he took 'Funhouse' and turned it into quite possibly the best song I've ever recorded, well, that was it. We knew an album was in the bag. The 'what songs' and 'when' were next. Carving out time in the summer was tricky, but not impossible, and once the basic tracks were done, Nick started doing his magical thing. I always knew that when Joe and I did another record, I wanted very specific players. Namely, old friends from Nashville that I knew without a shadow of doubt, they would do the right thing. So, thanks to the world wide web and a little bit of a learning curve, Kris Wilkinson, Billy Livsey and Jack Peck all played their parts in Nashville and Nick brought them into the tracks here in Bedford. Of course we would have loved to have everyone together in the studio, bouncing ideas off of eachother and recording live...maybe next time. Dan Barrow provided us with some great drumming (have to thank Nick again!) We used 'Funhouse' as our benchmark, the song to keep in mind as we orchestrated and built the other songs up. 'Black Road' is one of those tunes (like 'Fun House') that I don't know where it came from, but there it was. It is the most recently written song on the record. Slowly everything began to sound like an album. While in the car (of course Joe and I remember this differently) we were talking about guitars. He said something about a humbucker pickup and I said 'humbucky' as a joke. We were affectionately calling the album 'Bucky' and once humbucky was out there, well, again, that was it. It seemed to encompass so many things. Cicero Buck, humming our songs, the pet name 'Bucky', a great guitar sound (of which there are no humbucker pickup's on the album, sorry to say) and ultimately, it sounded like a 1950's housewife's swear word. Once the name was decided then the feel of the artwork came together. I didn't want to do my own artwork, but did so out of necessity. Our usual artist, Chad Jones, was just too busy being a hot shot art director. Geez! Where is the loyalty these days?? But ultimately, we decided the pop art and slightly 50's advertising feel would be good fun and not too heavy. When we go into our 10,000 pressing maybe we'll do some new artwork as a celebration! So, we finished things up in August and had it mastered with our favourite fella in the UK, Guy at Hiltongrove. It is certainly a different album to Delicate Shades of Grey, however, I think there is definitely some common ground. A new direction perhaps, thanks to Nick. Who knows. Only time will tell how it fares up against anything else out there. The beauty of this record is as much as we enjoy it, well, that's all that matters. You have to write and record the songs that move you, that talk to your gut, and yes, perhaps a little pleasing to the general public's ear. But honesty was definitely on our minds with this record. We're just glad it all worked out in the end. As I said many times during the recording and mixing process, 'all that matters is that we the people love it - people being me, Joe and Nick'. So, our second child, as it were, is born and about to take it's first tentative steps out into the cruel and unforgiving world. Will 'Humbucky' find the love? Will it find a place amongst so many great albums and the artists that work so hard? And why DO I keep dreaming about Dido and Sheryl Crow? What is THAT about? All of these questions, and others, will be answered in the coming months. Enjoy. - Kris Wilkinson, 1/2 of Cicero Buck.