Jan 082021
 

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.
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May 212020
 

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!

When the indie band Grant Lee Buffalo burst on the scene in the early 1990s, they seemed destined for stardom. Emerging from a residency at L.A.’s Largo nightclub, the fresh young band got snatched up by a major label or two, and embarked on world tours with more seasoned pros–first R.E.M., and later Pearl Jam. Rolling Stone magazine pronounced the guy behind it all, Grant Lee Phillips, the male vocalist of the year in 1994, and Michael Stipe practically started a GLP fan club.

But instead of parlaying the attention into fame and fortune, Phillips grew disillusioned with the star-maker machinery, and the pressure to deliver instantly likable hits. His songs needed time to warm up, he said, like an old car or an old tube amp. By 2000 he had disbanded Grant Lee Buffalo and dissolved their Warner Records contract. He got to work as plain old Grant Lee Phillips. Allying himself with independent labels (Rounder, Yep Roc), he’s been recording and touring on smaller scales ever since. His work earns the critical adoration, and he doesn’t go through gyrations to transform his sound or his image. He has a knack for interesting side hustles, like composing for film and television, and acting, too. You might have seen him on seasons 1-7 of the Gilmore Girls, in the role of the wandering troubadour.

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