By Pat Moran
You and I, a cache of recently discovered demos by Jeff Buckley, offers a tantalizing glimpse into the artist’s subconscious.
On “Dream of You and I,” Buckley stops singing and recalls a reverie so vivid it borders on hallucination. In his dream, he’s watching a band performing the very song he’s playing, as the audience sings along. Like that deeply personal song, You and I is intimate, immediate, and self-reflexive. With its one-man, one-guitar approach—he alternates between a Telecaster and a Guild—Buckley strips away layers of legend that have accrued around him since his death by drowning, itself the stuff of folklore.
What emerge are currents of fluid and slashing guitar, and a voice that conjures Nina Simone and Robert Plant while remaining unique. On an early take of his signature song “Grace,” Buckley’s vocal slides from angelic croon to gospel shout over tightening fills. The Sly and the Family Stone cover “Everyday People” flanges and funks-out as Buckley pushes the socially conscious lyrics in front of the groove.
Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman” gets a radical reworking.
As his Guild surges on percussive down-strokes, Buckley’s voice stretches the melody before snapping back on the chorus. Buckley has been lauded as a musical Rosetta stone that unlocks the psyche of Gen X, and denigrated for spawning navel-gazing bro’ folk. He gets a welcome reset with this collection—You and I is an unguarded and unvarnished snapshot, presenting Buckley as neither solipsist nor seer.