With a Ph.D. in U.S. labor history in one hand and albums with titles like "Welcome to Labor Land" (a collection of protest odes about Illinois working-class union stiffs), Bucky Halker's music seems more suited to the highbrow university lecture circuit than gritty, beer-soaked bars.
Truth be told, the northern Wisconsin native has one foot firmly planted in both worlds. Halker the black-rimmed professor is also a longtime fixture of the Midwest folk music scene.
Call him the Indiana Jones of folk music - Wisconsin Halker doesn't quite have the same ring to it - especially with his latest. From the catchy album cover art - the numbers are 3 merging highways in the heart of America's Dairyland with a cool story behind the photo itself - the 12 originals are tightly arranged and produced with a cast of talented Chicago-based pickers. Halker's most comfortable in thoughtful folk tunes like "Winter Is Leaving," yet his warbly baritone easily glides through the jazzy "Birdland Symphony" and the alt.-country "40 Hours to a Kiss."
The album may not be a "Temple of Doom" action-packed thriller, but the good professor knows how to spin a fine tale. For the moment anyway, Bucky Halker, folk scholar, gives way to folk music adventurer Wisconsin Halker.