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Music Review: Big Thief's Buck Meek delivers from high on the ear-friendly 'Haunted Mountain'

This cover image released by 4AD Records shows "Haunted Mountain" by Buck Meek. (4AD Records via AP)

Buck Meek, “Haunted Mountain” (4AD)

Buck Meek, the stellar guitarist of Big Thief, is out with his third studio album, “Haunted Mountain." It is a lovely fusion of twang and rock with prime songwriting that works to define the art of caring.

Sure, this is largely love song territory for the troubadour. He sought a bit of solace and wrote the songs in the mountains of Portugal and the Swiss Alps. But it’s a deft examination of how the heart grows, and not a breezy travelogue.

The title track is buoyed with hope as Meek sings “All of my life I’ve been a rounder / Traveling across this green land / But now that I live here on this haunted mountain / I know I’m never coming down.”

Surprises abound. The Texas-reared Meek collaborated with filmmakers working on a project about the late Judee Sill, a folk singer-songwriter who died in 1979. Meek was asked to put some of her unreleased lyrics to music for the project, and he obliged in fine fashion — released here on “The Rainbow.”

“I tried to honor her, to be a vessel for her,” Meek said in a press release. It’s fitting and it works on the short but sweet track.

In all, “Haunted Mountain” is a jangly collection of country chord structure with moments of electronic swoon, lush reverb and guitars in overdrive. The result is music as inviting and complex as the world-traveled Buck Meek. He’s Sufjan Stevens -adjacent, for those new listeners needing a cubbyhole to put him in. But his music stands on its own, and it is one of the most ear-friendly releases of 2023.