Well, it's a surname with connotations, that's for sure. Despite having no familial link to the late Tim and Jeff Buckley, Brian Buckley will inevitably suffer comparisons to his namesakes, and with a certain amount of justification. 'For Her' is an album borne of unresolved longing, poignancy and loss, set to a combination of fluid bluesy licks, skittering percussion and questing vocals that do occasionally bring to mind the more famous Buckleys that glimmered all too briefly in the past. The California-based songwriter has assembled an experienced troupe for this record, not least a brace of ex-Zappa companions in Arthur Barrow and Vinnie Colaiuta, whose nimble drumming especially enhances the more impressive early tracks.
Throughout the first half of the CD propulsive jams drop into and out of bluesy acoustic shuffling as Brian Buckley's voice spirals upwards and across octaves, not least on 'Score' where the accompaniment flits out to leave a indomitably fragile falsetto hanging unsuspended to marvellous effect. 'My World' is the most impressive track on the disc, an impassioned, resigned pulse ("This is what it is / this will never be more than what it was") exploring the death of a loved one - a lyrical touchstone throughout the whole album - that flares briefly into a frantic workout before sliding back down into a more subdued coda. Opener 'Little Pieces' also impresses with a frenetic eastern-tinged percussive groove as a precursor to the more pensive body of the song, then picks up into a second lithe attack to set a strong marker for the rest of the record.
This high standard cannot be maintained however, and the second half of the CD is a disappointment. The instinctive full-band improvisations dry up after the muscular 'Spanish Tragedy' to be replaced with too many over-emotive vocal histrionics - 'Laughter' attempts a simple intimacy but without a strong enough melody to carry it off, while both 'In Another World (She Is Gone)' and 'Wonder' outstay their welcome by a couple of minutes. Towards the end of the album Brian Buckley's insistence on pulling out the vocal stops in each song becomes obvious and tiring, and this fatigue is not helped by an unflattering mix setting the vocal too far to the fore, especially given that the later tracks are largely divested of Mike McGraw's honey-toned lead guitar that characterises the first half of the record. It's a shame, as there is obviously genuine talent at work here; nonetheless the overall feeling is that Brian Buckley needs the creative input of his bandmates to really shine and avoid slipping into mediocrity.