Song Of The Week: “Mockingbirds” by Grant Lee Buffalo

grant lee buffalo Mockingbirds FrontTurning the tragedy of today into the tunes of tomorrow. Telling the tale. Weaving the dream. The world crumbles — only to be swept up, dusted off, and reassembled into something new, something with threads of darkness, and beauty, and perhaps, hope. The troubadour’s tapestry.

Let’s hark back to the early 90s. A time of transition, a time of confusion …

From the ashes of critical darlings Shiva Burlesque rose the phoenix known as Grant Lee Buffalo, a trio of LA transplants whose time, it would seem, had come. Mining a rich vein of Americana in the tradition of The Band, Neil Young, and REM, the group put their own 90s twist on the genre: grunge-folk, if you will. Or if you won’t.

After a well-received debut, Grant Lee Buffalo toured heavily, and had most of their sophomore record completed by the end of 1993. While working on final overdubs in the studio in January of 1994, one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded in North America struck the Los Angeles area. Everyone was okay, physically, but lead singer Grant Lee Phillips lost his home. Permanently. Nothing left to return to.

But aftershocks weren’t the only things to strike in the wake of the quake. Inspiration hit, too, and Phillips quickly wrote and recorded three additional songs with his bandmates. These tunes touched on a more personal note, and one of them, “Mockingbirds,” became a moderate hit on college and “alternative” radio stations when released as the second single from the album, Mighty Joe Moon.

Unfortunately, Grant Lee Buffalo wasn’t exactly a “hit single” type of band. Between internal frictions, label restrictions, and a record-buying public who remained largely unaware of who they were, the group found it difficult to move forward and finally split up in the late 90s.

But for now, let them weave their melodies of quiet beauty into a thick scarf … for your heart.

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