MetroBEAT

JUNE 25, 2002
Using Her Illusions
Singer-songwriter Kim Buchanan delivers a brand new album
 

BY DAN ARMONAITIS
 



 

Not many people get a second chance to make a first impression, but with the release of her second album, Illusions, singer-songwriter Kim Buchanan is getting that rare opportunity. While her first release, 1998’s Will I Ever Know?, was full of songs that Buchanan still performs, she admits that it’s hardly representative of her true sound. Thus, as a relatively still unknown artist outside folk insiders, Buchanan’s latest effort is the first taste of her music for many people. The result is a lush, fully realized portrait of an artist capable of blending elements of pop, jazz, classical and rock into a very original folk mix.

While the North Carolina-based Buchanan has mostly concentrated her touring on the Southeast, she has ventured as far away as New York City and recently even had the opportunity to perform at the prestigious Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. And her latest album, released only a couple of months ago, is already receiving a healthy smattering of critical acclaim. But it’s her live show that has really sparked attention.

“I feel a real connection with the audience performing live,” Buchanan says. “I like to make eye contact, and I like to have sort of the swapping of the energy when I perform. I thrive off the audience’s energy. I think it’s pretty crucial. I love getting to perform. I think it’s a real treat. I live out in the middle of nowhere, so that’s my dose of civilization.”

A military brat, Buchanan was born at an Air Force base in Japan and spent most of her childhood in Europe and different parts of the United States before her parents settled in Myrtle Beach just before she entered high school. Within the liner notes of Illusions is a photo of Buchanan from her Myrtle Beach days when she was a cheerleader at Socastee High School. What sparked the inclusion of the undergarment-revealing photo was one of Buchanan’s most popular songs, “Dress Code,” which includes the line “your undergarments are not to be visible... unless you’re a cheerleader.” Because she had been a cheerleader herself, Buchanan feels she had the right to deliver the good-natured jab.

“In Person County, which is the county where my kids go to school, the song is pretty much 95 percent verbatim of their dress code,” the 40-year-old Buchanan says. “And it’s only half of the dress code, which is very, very long. But one of the lines of the dress code actually says, ‘Undergarments are not to be visible.’ And the very next line says something to the point that, ‘The only exception to this policy are those who participate in athletic events (i.e. cheerleaders).’ So they basically said it right there. I just condensed those two lines.”

Buchanan’s two daughters, Casey and Ashley, both contribute to the track, and the former plays flute on the somber instrumental “Speechless Peace,” which was written in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I wanted to find some way to express my emotions after 9/11,” Buchanan says. “And a lot of friends had already written songs about 9/11. I sat down a couple of times, and I said, ‘I feel like I’m capitalizing on something negative when I try to sit down to write this song.’ But the music was very, very nice. And initially, I started putting words to it, but then I decided I couldn’t say anything that was really appropriate about the situation. The music itself was very melancholy but it had a little happiness to it at the same time. It was sort of the way I felt.”

Other highlights on Illusions include surprisingly effective covers of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” and the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” For many, tackling such classic material may have come across as a daunting task, but Buchanan was never intimidated.

“I didn’t even think about their relativity in the world,” Buchanan says of the two songs. “They were just very moving songs to me... It’s important for people to perform songs that they really enjoy. If it’s a good song, don’t let that stop you.”

Having performed “White Rabbit” for several years, Buchanan simply felt it was time to release a studio version.

“It’s not a song that gets overkill on airplay and it’s not a song that other musicians do for the most part, yet there’s such a recognition for that song,” Buchanan says. “People are attracted to that song in so many ways. And for me, it’s very reminiscent of childhood memories. I loved ‘White Rabbit’ and I loved Alice In Wonderland as a child. And my mother almost named me Alice.”

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” meanwhile, was in the process of being recorded when its writer, George Harrison, passed away last November. One of the best cover versions of a Beatles’ song you’re likely to hear, the song is transformed into a soothing ballad that perhaps brings even more poignancy to its sad lyrical content than the original.

“My husband said, ‘You know, I just really wish that George Harrison would’ve had a chance to hear this version. I think he would’ve really liked it.’ And my belief is that his energy is still out there and if he chooses to hear it, he’ll be definitely able to hear it anytime he wants. So I hope he appreciates what I did with it.”

Critics certainly have been appreciative of Illusions in general, which is particularly satisfying for Buchanan considering that she self-produced the album at home.

“It was quite an undertaking, but it was one that I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to do myself,” she says. “I have friends who’ve spent 30-50,000 dollars on their CDs, and I would put my CD up against theirs anytime. It’s gotten really wonderful reviews. And even though it’s totally self-produced, the comment I get is that it doesn’t sound like a home recording. It sounds like it’s been done in one of the top-notch studios... I’m very, very thrilled that I was able to pull it off because there were many times when I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to.”

 

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January 24, 2012 11:39 AM Eastern Standard Time.