It's difficult to imagine the world of contemporary singer/songwriters without the influence of Jeff Buckley. Indeed, it's difficult to imagine Radiohead in their current guise without the eerily affecting songcraft of Grace and its argument that modern rock needn't be just another run-through of post-Nirvana dynamics. Buckley's voice-- if not as recklessly expressive as his father's, certainly as overtly seductive-- soars angelically over his own chiming guitar figures. Gary Lucas (ex-Captain Beefheart) provides additional guitar and co-writes two of the best songs: "Mojo Pin"-- an epic transfiguration of Debussy with the heavenly grandeur of Led Zeppelin-- and the title track, which is at once perfect pop and an otherworldly declaration of freedom from the constraints of the material world.
Even as Buckley's vision seems incapable of disguising itself, his reinterpretations of Nina Simone's "Lilac Wine", Benjamin Britten's "Corpus Christi Carol", and especially Leonard Cohen's deeply affirming "Hallelujah" seem definitive. Grace ends enigmatically yet perfectly with "Dream Brother", as good an epitaph as any for an artist having clearly unfinished business in this world. It would have been nice to see where Buckley's promise would have led, but Grace will continue to spur on the midnight romantics for as long as it's within earshot.