Grace, the first and only studio album by the late singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley, arrived on August 23, 1994, 25 years ago this week. While not an immediate sensation, the album eventually attained legendary status, especially following Buckley's drowning death at age 30 in 1997. Grace includes such memorable original songs as the title track "The Last Goodbye" and "Lover, You Should Have Come Over," as well as memorable covers of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and Nina Simone's "Lilac Wine."
Now WXPN, The Key, and World Cafe Live are paying tribute to Buckley's beloved album with a special tribute concert on Friday, August 23, the actual date of the 25th anniversary, with local musicians performing the songs from Grace. The concert will be preceded by the showing of a documentary about the singer.
Bringing people together
The "house bands" for the show will include Philly-native singer-songwriter Naeemah Z. Maddox and local band The End of America, with appearances on individual songs by the likes of Curtis Cooper, Matt Duke, and members of the groups Hardwork Movement and Ruby the Hatchet. Maddox and The End of America will each take the lead on half of the album; for Maddox's portion, she'll be playing with a band that includes guitarist Matt Hollenberg, bassist Josh Freshy, and drummer Tony Flagiello.
Maddox, who performed in Philly for years and is now based in New York, told Broad Street Review that she became part of the show when WXPN's John Vettese made a Facebook post asking about interest in putting together a Buckley tribute and several people tagged her in it. The event soon came together after that.
"Jeff Buckley, for me, is the artist that I identity with the most in my whole career," Maddox said. "I listen to a lot of different music, but when I discovered Jeff Buckley… I learned so much not only from his craft in writing, but just the way his voice is just so powerful, and he's able to get so many nuanced sounds in one syllable. It's just the combination of so many things I identify with in my musical journey.”
Maddox, like many people, got into Buckley's music years after the release of the album and the singer's death, first discovering the Grace album in 2006.
"Of course I had heard his name around but it wasn’t until I was sound checking at a gig and the song ‘Grace’ came on blasting out of the PA, that I truly connected to the song 'Grace' for the first time," Maddox said. "Since then I’ve become obsessed with his recordings, and the nuances of his performances steeped in sincerity and virtuosity."
What, When, Where:
World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut Street, will host a special tribute concert for Jeff Buckley on Friday, August 23. Tickets for the concert are $18 in advance and $22 at the door; doors open at 7 for the 8pm show.