Five years after the death of singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley, his earliest recordings are finally being released. When a twenty-four-year-old Buckley went into a New York studio with guitarist Gary Lucas to demo "Grace" in 1991, he didn't even have a record label deal. That song would become the title track of the only album Buckley released during his lifetime. But now his initial sessions with Lucas, Songs to No One: 1991-1992, are due out on the independent label Evolver Entertainment on October 15th.
"He was the best collaborator I've ever had," says Lucas, a former Captain Beefheart sideman, who co-wrote "Grace" and "Mojo Pin," both on Buckley's 1994 album Grace. Songs to No One's eleven tracks include live songs Buckley recorded with Lucas' music collective, Gods and Monsters, and demos.
At the height of Buckley's career, in 1997, the thirty-year-old singer drowned in the Wolf River in Memphis. The son of jazz-folk singer Tim Buckley, who also died young, Jeff had met Lucas at a tribute concert honoring his father.
"Jeff's voice just soared angelically, but it also had this raw rock intensity," Lucas says of those first sessions. "I knew right then that this stuff was going to shake the world. I felt like I had dynamite in my pocket."
After sitting on the demos for a decade, Lucas finally got the OK from Buckley's mother, Mary Guibert, to put them out. "I just wanted to take everything in sequence," says Guibert, who oversaw the release of Buckley's two posthumous albums on Sony. "I'll have to admit, in all honesty, that Jeff put a handwritten title over the top of the [Gods and Monsters] tape that said 'Disgusto Garbage.' For some reason he heard it later on and said, 'Oh, I wish I'd never done that.'"
Buckley, whose dramatic style has influenced the songs of artists such as Rufus Wainwright and Travis, was a prolific writer, says Lucas: "I have about eight hours of material. Hopefully there will be other CDs to come."