(Sketches For) My Sweetheart The Drunk (Jeff Buckley) – Album Review

Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk (1998}9 Was To Be Jeff Buckley's Posthumous Release.

(Sketches For) My Sweetheart The Drunk Was To Be Released Posthumously By Jeff Buckley's Mother In 1998, One Year After The Drowning Accident That Ended His Life.

Jeff Buckley’s drowning in 1997 in Memphis was a harrowing tragedy. We lost a great human being and we were deprived of a gifted performer whose career was just starting in earnest. At the time of his passing, Jeff was about to begin working with his band on a set of songs he had actually recorded once in Manhattan (with Television’s Tom Verlaine) and scrapped. He referred to those songs as “My Sweetheart The Drunk”, and he defined the album as “a guidebook for losers in love”.

Upon his passing, Jeff’s mother supervised a two-disc release made up of the songs Jeff had scrapped on the first disc, and the songs he had left behind as 4-track demos on the second CD. This double album became known as “(Sketches For) My Sweetheart The Drunk”, and it was a moving reminder of Buckley’s talent and determination to create a legacy as enduring as that of his brilliant (yet troubled) father Tim.

The songs he had recorded with Verlaine and scrapped only make it patent how much he strove for perfection – there was nothing wrong with them. Jeff was aiming to create a work which showcased him and his band as the close-knit performing unit they had become. And that was more than fulfilled by each of the ten songs that were featured.

“The Sky Is A Landfill” (a song in which he comes to terms with his father’s addictions) opens the album in an assertive way, and Jeff closes it almost single-handedly 50 minutes later with “You And I”, the nearest he has ever come to an acapella number. Generally, the songs stand as a more muscular version of the goth/folk sound that had been so captivating the first time around.

“Nightmares By The Sea” is a definitive highlight, and it was covered respectfully (but not brilliantly) by Katatonia later on. With its tale of lovers returning from the hereinafter to doom the existences of those still alive, the song is a clear tribute to Edgar A. Poe, an artist Jeff was very keen on. (He actually contributed a reading of “Ulalume” to an album produced and issued by Hal Willner in 1997, “Closed On Account of Rabies”.) Continue reading

Jeff Buckley – General Introduction

Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley is one of the modern legends of music. Bestowed with one of the most expressive voices in history, he drowned in 1997 after having released only one studio album (“Grace”, 1994). He was 30 years of age. A set of demo recordings named “(Sketches For) My Sweetheart The Drunk” was polished and issued shortly after his untimely death as a 2 CD set, which also included an album he had recorded with Tom Verlaine and decided to scrap. As it always happens in these cases, posthumous success exceeded all the critical (and commercial) accolades he had reaped during his short life.

“How can somebody be lauded as a legend when he only released one ‘true’ album?”, I hear some say as I make the rounds. I can make no other reply than handing them a copy of “Grace” and pointing at two songs in particular: “Last Goodbye” and “Hallelujah”. I know I am not exaggerating when I say that these two are the songs of the decade. “Last Goodbye” showcases Buckley’s cannonades of sonority and expressivity as barriers that seem unsurpassable are conquered one after the other, culminating in the explosive delivery after the orchestrated break.

“Hallelujah”, on the other hand, is an emotional paradox – a song that can be as uplifting as it can be disheartening. It all depends on the circumstances in which you are playing it. It was arguably Jeff’s highest (posthumous) commercial point, and one of the first “true” digital music smash hits in history.  Continue reading