‘Barrelhouse’ Buck McFarland began recording in 1929 with the songs St. Louis Fire Blues and On Your Way, which served as the basic blueprint for his other pieces. After that he made ensemble recordings and, much later, two LPs that included some piano solos. In nearly all of these recordings McFarland stuck to the song patterns that were introduced with his first two recordings. For instance, Alton Blues, Mercy Blues, and I Got to Go Blues all sound like rewrites of St. Louis Fire Blues.
Similarly, Barrelhouse Buck, Charlie’s Stomp, and So Long Buck are patterned after On Your Way. Despite this, there are subtleties that make each recording worthwhile.
McFarland’s style is decidedly rural barrelhouse and has a rustic charm. Some of the pieces patterned after On Your Way use a 16-bar blues formula, sometimes encountered in country blues. Another feature found in the On Your Way pattern is perhaps unique to McFarland. In place of the dominant toward the end of the blues progression there is 1 1/2 bars of the submedient (vi).
‘Barrelhouse’ Buck McFarland’s early recordings can be found on Piano Blues Vol. 2. His best-sounding later recordings are on Alton Blues. Many worthy items can be found on the Smithsonian Folkways recording Barrelhouse Buck: Backcountry Barrelhouse, made around the same time as Alton Blues. However, the recording quality on the Folkways LP is sub-par, with a noticeable warble from the tape.