Richard Buckner said once that he was as likely to head a klezmer band as a country band, it just depended on the musicians he was with at the time. Still, Buckner and his Doubters have been credited for helping to establish San Francisco's alternacountry scene, along with artists like Paula Frazer and Stephen Yerkey. But while fog and sea salt drip out of his contemporaries' pores, Buckner seems to brush sand from his palms every time he lifts his pick. Despite arrangements that turn pedal steel into wistful melancholy and guitar into earthy murmuring, aurally, Buckner's music remains warm and dry. It settles over everything like a gently shifting desert -- kind of homey if you get used to it. Homey, not happy. Devotion + Doubt feeds on the vast distances between people -- years, highways, silence -- and still quietly acknowledges the little things that fill that space for better or worse. As straightforward as any country great, Buckner depends more on the depth of his voice than the hyperbole of his prose to convey the weight of his emotion. Within a single vocal tremor, simple statements like "I'm yours and I have to leave" become foregone conclusions of loss without hope of absolution. Buckner is not the type of country crooner who makes young girls sigh. Rather his is the voice that slips into the quiet places when a woman is alone at night. If it weren't for the long freeways so present in the silence between his words, you might almost believe he means to do it. Richard Buckner opens for the Sunshine Club at the Great American Music Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $7; call 885-0750. ... Harvey Sid Fisher is a struggling musician, a struggling actor, a struggling screenwriter, a struggling photo model, and a struggling golfer. So, why is everyone so anxious to see him ply his Astrology Songs for the second year in a row? Because, silly, everyone likes to hear songs sung about themselves, and with Harvey you have at least a one-in-12 chance. Also, as one friend confided, "It's as close to Lawrence Welk as I'll ever come." Check out the self-styled lounge lizard on Saturday, Feb. 8, at 8 p.m. at the Kilowatt. Tickets are $6; call 861-2596. Fantasy and Planet Seven open.
-- Silke Tudor