In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
LA’s Grant Lee Buffalo was formed in the early ’90s out of a regrouped Shiva Burlesque. A folk band juiced up with fuzz boxes, the trio could go from folk to grunge and back in a matter of moments. Lead singer and guitarist Grant-Lee Phillips has an impressive vocal range, which features an impressive falsetto that YouTube bedroom coverers dare not attempt, and makes finding covers of some songs near impossible. Although critical darlings, the band struggled to find success in what was then a radio-dominated music industry, despite great production values and lyrics about the militarization of law enforcement and voter apathy that still hold up today.
A brief reunion tour in 2013 did yield the excellent Live at the Royal Festival Hall, an authentic plugged-in affair that I highly recommend. Since breaking up, Phillips has gone solo under his own name, while bassist Paul Kimble has formed Pistol Star, and drummer Joey Peters has been a member of Rusty Truck and the country revival band Stash.
We’ve talked about the covers Grant Lee Buffalo recorded before; now it’s time to see others covering GLB originals. Let’s go down the rabbit hole.
Indianna Dawn – Fuzzy (Grant Lee Buffalo cover)
Copenhagen’s Indianna Dawn does the best job on GLB’s most covered song, with lead singer Dianna Dønns providing the range with her jazzy voice—and her uke—to blend into some electric string bending at the end.
Maria McKee – Jupiter and Teardrop (Grant Lee Buffalo cover)
“Jupiter and Teardrop” is one of my favorite songs, and Maria McKee, the former Lone Justice head, belts it out with her trademark warble in her own raw style. Captured live from Redondo Beach’s The Strand, it’s a messy rock ode to dropping everything and running for your life.
Pistol Star – Stars and Stripes (Grant Lee Buffalo cover)
A lot of Grant Lee Buffalo’s sound can be attributed to Paul Kimble, who produced earlier records, and here he represents with his current band and one of the many timeless songs from GLB’s first album. You’ll notice a Cristal baschet being played on the left, and if you wonder what a Cristal baschet is, join the club. But getting past that, while the world has advanced technologically in 30 years since the song’s lyrical Handycam, the videotaping of everything in society, from iPhone-taken cop beatings to Ring doorbell porch pirates, is even more prevalent.
Dharma Bums – The Hook (Grant Lee Buffalo cover)
The UK’s Dharma Bums—not to be confused with the well known but disbanded Portland, Oregon Dharma Bums–does a great job with another track from GLB’s debut. Other than the confusion of different bums with the same name (The Mission/Mission UK comes to mind), it’s best to not think too hard about it and melt into the groove.
Paul Dempsey – Mockingbirds (Grant Lee Buffalo cover)
Dempsey is the frontman for Australia’s Something For Kate, which has just released its first album in eight years, The Modern Medieval. Dempsey is charming in his prologue, and then proceeds to sing Phillips’ difficult song, navigating those treacherous falsetto tones to sail right into the winner’s circle. If you watch one video here, let it be this one.