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Kevin Buckley’s Irish fiddle shines in debut solo album ‘Big Spring’

St. Louis folk musician, multi-instrumentalist and producer Kevin Buckley puts his fiddle playing front and center in "Big Spring."
Nate Burrell
St. Louis folk musician, multi-instrumentalist and producer Kevin Buckley puts his fiddle playing front and center in "Big Spring."

Kevin Buckley is no stranger to the St. Louis music scene. He’s released five albums under his side project Grace Basement, and he’s performed with St. Louis-based bands the Western Satellites, Pappy with a Hatchet and Keepin’ it Reel. But the multi-instrumentalist and folk musician has never gone solo — until now.

Buckley’s first solo album, “Big Spring,” comes out on Feb. 22. It features elements of traditional Irish folk, bluegrass, swing and Tejano music. And, it’s the first time he’ll showcase one of the instruments with which he’s most adept — the fiddle.

“It is a little daunting, especially making an instrumental record. People listen to it a little differently,” he said on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air. “The standard of playing in Irish music and folk music in general is very high. So there's a lot of pressure there to compete with a standard, I suppose, but also do something that's me.”

Buckley drew inspiration for the new album from a trip he took in 2020 to Big Spring, part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Carter County, Missouri. He went there after a bout with COVID, wanting to get out of the house.

Kevin Buckley on his first solo project

“It was just a beautiful experience,” he said. “And I came back, and I had the idea to contact Dave Sinko to mix the record and finish it. And there was a theme that kind of all brought things together, which is very meaningful and productive as well.”

He said the pandemic also had a big impact on his creative process for this album.

“As much as it was frustrating, I don't know if it would have happened the same way under different circumstances,” he said. “I try not to let it define the record, but it is something we all have in common. We were all there.”

Buckley’s album features some original songs and some new versions of songs he’s been playing and listening to since he was a kid. His cover of “The Unfortunate Miss Bailey,” made famous by the Kingston Trio, takes a darker musical angle on the song the Kingston Trio made sound so cheery.

“I think it suits the tone because it's a super dark story,” he said. “It's a bit spooky, and it has a sad ending too. So that was fun, to kind of turn that one around a little bit.”

Though his new album has plenty of Irish influences, Buckley notes that listeners can expect a mix of genres.

“There's some swingy stuff, there's some old-timey stuff and kind of more American influenced things, so that's part of it, too,” he said. “It's all one big kind of soup.”

Related Event

What: "Big Spring" Album Release Show
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22
Where: The Sheldon, 3648 Washington Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Kayla Drake. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.