May 2, 2002
by Adam Arnold, Staff Writer

Kim Buchanan thinks covers can reveal more about her music than they hide.

The Person County-based singer-songwriter, who’s having a CD release party Sunday at the Six String Cafe and Music Hall in MacGregor Village, said performing other people’s songs exposes where she’s coming from musically.

“It’s important to put in cover tunes,” Buchanan said. “I chose those two because everyone does know them. … It helps listeners put me in context, it gives listeners a sense of familiarity.”

The “two” she referred to are White Rabbit, made famous by the Jefferson Airplane, and the Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Both are on her latest release, Illusions.

White Rabbit is a “second identity” for Buchanan.

“Musicians like that song, so that gets requested,” she said.

Buchanan pointed out her guitar is named Gracie, as in Grace Slick, who wrote the song, and that the idea of being turned upside down in an Alice-in-Wonderland world is a fitting theme for Illusions.

On While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Buchanan uses only vocal, acoustic guitar for rhythm and a violin as the lead instrument, a stark contrast to the original guitar-driven version, with Eric Clapton on lead and composer George Harrison backing.

Buchanan’s starker arrangement not only avoids taking on two guitar legends but also places more emphasis on the lyrics, which yearn for love to overcome spiritual decay.

“In my mind While My Guitar Gently Weeps has always been a soothing ballad,” she said. “To me this is how I wanted it to sound.”

There’s also a third cover, a traditional folk song called She Moved Through the Fair, features an clever guitar technique leading to an impressive harmonic payoff. After tuning the guitar to an E5 chord, Buchanan put two capos at the fourth fret. While playing the rhythm with right hand, she modulates by moving one of the capos along the neck.

She’s happy it worked. “I do so much by feel and intuition,” Buchanan said. “I’ll play some chord on the guitar and people will say, ‘what is that?’ and I’ll say, ‘I don’t know.’ … It’s all luck.”

The project is a family thing for Buchanan.

An Air Force brat, Buchanan, 39, was born in Okinawa and grew up in Europe before moving back to the states when she was a teenager. In the early ‘70s the family modified a Volkswagen van and drove it sightseeing through Europe.

“We’d sing everything from Kumbaya to These Boots Are Made for Walking,” Buchanan said. “Since we’re all hams in our family we all learned to naturally harmonize.”

Some of that harmony will reunite at the release party. Robin Cape, Buchanan’s sister and bassist, will perform along with the rest of the band, which could include Buchanan’s 12-year-old daughter, Casey playing flute on at least one song.

Although not on stage, Buchanan’s husband, George is also in on the act, as he did the painting for the CD cover.

Rounding out Buchanan’s lineup are percussionist Jubal, violinist Michael Hsu and Scott Ainslie on slide guitar. The party may be the last show for the group, as Hsu is about to graduate from Duke Medical School and move to Seattle, Buchanan said.

Guests performing will include Meghan Cary and Sarah Pinsker.

Buchanan came back to singing and started writing songs in the mid ‘90s.  She spent 12 years singing in rock cover bands but gave it up when Casey was born. She then started a 9-to-5 career as a marketing consultant in retail music.

But about six years ago she bought an acoustic guitar, taught herself to play, “and almost immediately songs started being formed,” she said. “Within 18 months I was recording my first CD, Will I Ever Know.”

“All the songs are very illusory, because things are not what they seem,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan used the album to take some new directions beyond the cover tunes. The entire project was do-it-yourself, from composing to arranging to producing.

Growing more confident with her guitar playing, Buchanan composed some extended introductions, which stand alone but segue into full songs.

She also used one track for a full-length instrumental tune, Speechless Peace. “It’s sort of my response to 9/11,” she said. “All the words that came to mind just seemed trite. I wasn’t there so I couldn’t share in their turmoil.”

Buchanan also honors the present with “Dress Code,” a withering homage to a document Casey and her younger sister, Ashley, brought home from school last year.

“This is 99 percent verbatim of the school dress code,” she said.

“It’s the one song everyone has loved but the school board in Person County.”

Although Buchanan described many of the circumstances around the CD as “synchronicities,” having the party at Six String was deliberate. She said owner David Sardinha, whom she credited for boosting her work, offered to open on Sunday just for the event.

A frequent performer at the venue, Buchanan said it’s the only place she plays in the Triangle. The symbiosis between her and the audience is particularly strong at the club, and she depends on it.

“If that crowd is not ‘there’ I can’t be there for them,” said Buchanan who hopes to show what the covers reveal.

Contact Adam Arnold at 460-2609 or at



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