In the time since Our Blood was released and after a few long tours, Richard Buckner attempted to work on writing short stories but found himself drawn back into the music room. The evidence of his time in the writer’s chair is clear in the dense, lovely prose of Surrounded. The album’s liner notes include text-embedded lyrics, a technique Buckner employed on his earlier albums Since and Impasse, but this marks the first time he used the songs’ extended story to construct the album’s overall view and track sequence.
Throwing out the “tricks and trades” of his previous efforts, Buckner hunkered down at home and chose a few unfamiliar pieces of gear-a Suzuki QChord electronic autoharp and an Electro-Harmonix POG2 pedal to create basic tracks and open up more sonic possibilities. “The best outcomes happen sometimes when I’m unfamiliar with the tool that I’m using (imagine MacGyver wearing a dog cone).”
The now-infamous process of recording and re-recording Our Blood left him a bit gun-shy, so this time, Buckner decided to get each song out of his house as soon as it was finished to avoid the contamination of over-thinking. After hearing an interview with famed producer Tucker Martine, Buckner found a destination for his songs: “Tucker understood the urgency in me to tie the whole thing up before I fell into the same trap that I’d had finishing Our Blood and was generous enough to move other commitments around to fit Surrounded in. When I had finally finished Our Blood, I felt like I’d just survived a stroll through a minefield. With Surrounded, it was more of a sensation that I’d successfully organized a messy desk.”
There are three kinds of American folk artist: those who sit, contented, on a back porch contemplating America’s landscape and ways; those for whom its landscape and ways are something to stand against or move boldly through; and those whose America is a shadowy, impressionistic place that moves inside of them. This [latter] is the area that the sombre-voiced Richard Buckner has been exploring since 1994.
– Sylvie Simmons, The Guardian