14/1/14 – Grant Lee Buffalo – Fuzzy – 1993

Grant Lee Buffalo - Fuzzy album cover 1993

I remember hearing Jupiter and Teardrop on the radio and thinking wow who is that? I immediately became a fan and rushed out and bought the record. It had a special sound (bass player Paul Kimble is credited as producer) and an obviously talented singer and songwriter in Grant Lee Phillips. Interestingly they were just a three piece with Joey Peters completing the line up on drums. Later I got to meet the band, saw them live a couple of times, played with them at a festival and got to know Grant a little. Great music, great people.

The album opens with The Shining Hour, a shuffling acoustic song that almost reminds me of skiffle – they were like a serious Violent Femmes. When I saw them I noticed Grant was playing an acoustic guitar but plugged into an amp and that was one of the reasons that they had a different sound. This track has piano and lead guitar but even though it is fuller instrumentally they still manage to sound sparse. This track also reminds me of The Waterboys, something Celtic about it and something in the melody.

Jupiter And Teardrops first chord sounds like it’s going to be Bowie’s Moonage Daydream but the rest of the song has that acoustic sparse sound and a storyteller’s lyric that could have been written by Willy Deville:

Just a girl who can’t say no
And her sweetheart on parole
Parents named her Jupiter
To bless her with a lucky soul
He’s a boy who never cried
When they locked him up inside
And she nicknamed him her teardrop
For the tattoo by his eye

Now she’s sleeping in her bed
And he’s sleeping in her bed
And it’s Jupiter and Teardrop
And it’s Jupiter and Teardrop

She divines by radio
Pushing buttons show to show
And she wonders ’bout the fate of
Lovers in the barrio
She forgets after a while
When she tunes in on the dial
Jackie Wilson’s Lonely Teardrops
And she drives another mile

Now she’s sleeping in her bed
And he’s sleeping in her bed
And it’s Jupiter and Teardrop
And it’s Jupiter and Teardrop
And it’s Jupiter and Teardrop

And they want to have a child
Walk together down the aisle
But the world they live in is mean
And it’s built on sheer denial
The phone rings it’s for her
Got to see ya Jupiter
I’m in trouble with the law
Bring my 38 caliber

Now she’s sleeping in her bed
As she pulls the phone plug dead
And it’s Jupiter and Teardrop

Fuzzy the title track has a lilting feel and a gorgeous melody. That same simple beat and acoustic guitar. The chorus picks up and makes you sway and then that added electric scream (like on Jupiter And Teardrop) punches through the acoustic instruments.

It’s a hybrid of Americana but has a rock influence with lots of Dylan. I can imagine Eddie Vedder singing Wish You Well or Cat Stevens. I can imagine Nick Cave singing, Soft Wolf Trail, Dixie Drug Store, Richard Thompson. All his songs remind me of great people but not because he is like them but because he is as great as them. America Is Snoring is like an acoustic Nirvana meets Perry Farrell. Grace reminds me of Lou Reed/Velvets. You Just have To Be Crazy could have been sung by Patsy Cline.

Grant Lee Buffalo went on to make three more albums, Mighty Joe Moon 1994, Copperopolis 1996 and Jubilee 1998 – all worthy releases.

There’s a poetry, a sincerity, a conscience and an engaging presence, and that thread continues through Grant’s solo records. If you don’t know him I suggest you discover him because you won’t find anyone who is more real than this. I think in the old days they used to call it the genuine article!