Grant-Lee Phillips has put out nearly twice as many recordings as a solo artist than he did with his beloved ’90s band Grant Lee Buffalo. That means he has quite a few songs available when he does a song-swap-type tour like the one that brings him to the Dosey Doe this week with Toad the Wet Sprocket’s Glenn Phillips.
Phillips (Grant-Lee, that is) also has a new album, “Walking in the Green Corn,” which features largely acoustic songs about his heritage, delivered with his usual thoughtfulness. He’s likely to mix a healthy number of them into his set along with other tunes from his solo work and Grant Lee Buffalo.
Question & Answer with Grant-Lee Phillips
Q: Grant Lee Buffalo never broke beyond a revered cult band. But is it safe to say you still get a lot of folks who come out to hear the old, old stuff?
A: Ah, yeah, there’s more than a handful. But what’s been interesting is there are many who discovered the Grant Lee Buffalo stuff through my solo career. Maybe they saw me on “Gilmore Girls” or something, and they’ve worked back. But I probably get the most shout-outs for “Mighty Joe Moon” and “Fuzzy.” And I have a few of the diehards who will shout out a b-side from those days. That really blows me away.
Q:Those band albums offered an alternative to alternative rock, which had by that time grown fairly homogenous. Do you revisit them much? Or are they like old yearbook photos?
A:(Laughs.) Oh, boy, no, I don’t listen to them too much. We did a few reunion shows, and I had to relearn to play them the way the band played them. I don’t know, it was like a strange therapy, almost like watching a movie of your life as it passes by. Or hearing something that should be more familiar than it is or something through somebody else’s ears.
Q: “Green Corn,” that’s an American Indian ceremony, right?
A: Yes, indeed. The inspiration was this Southeastern tradition of both the Creek and the Cherokee. It was a time of renewal and purification. The song itself is a prayer for better times and better days ahead. The song was inspired by my own native ancestry and that side of my heritage, something I’m increasingly trying to understand.
Q: There’s a darkness to the album, but closing with it gives a hopeful note to go out on.
A: Yeah, that’s right. I try to send you on your way with (laughs) a little optimism as a parting gift. My last album was about turning in and preparing to become a father. There was lots of newness on that album.
Q: There’s a sincerity in your songs. Paired with the interest in American Indian culture, it reminds me in some faint way of Johnny Cash.
A: Well, that’s about the highest compliment I could ever hope to brush up against. He was a huge influence on me growing up. His voice and ability to tell a story was such that he seemed to have lived through and survived them, even when he hadn’t. Survival was always a big part of it. No matter how hard things seemed to be, there was still this chance for redemption, to learn from mistakes. That music always had an impact on me. I love going back to his songs, especially the Sun sessions. It’s like time travel, I guess. Those old records were so pure and direct and strong.
Q:In the “things that make me feel old” category ...
A: Oh, dear ... here we go ... (Laughs.)
Q: Yeah ... have you thought about the fact “Fuzzy” turns 20 next year?
A: Oh, goodness, no. Is that true? It’s almost old enough to drink. That’s wild. And no I hadn’t thought about that. We may need to mark that occasion with an all-”Fuzzy” show next year. You’ve planted that seed.
Here’s a 10-song introduction to Grant-Lee Phillips and Grant Lee Buffalo, one of the great under-appreciated cult bands of the ‘90s:
1. “Mockingbirds”: Maybe the best song from GLB’s “Mighty Joe Moon” — which is flat-out one of the best albums made in the ‘90s — this is a showcase for Phillips’ otherworldly voice.
2. “Fuzzy”: The title track from the first Grant-Lee Buffalo record speaks to all the things the band did wonderfully. It does the quiet/loud thing with Phillips’ guitar befitting inspiring the title. He reaches for the high notes and finds them.
3. “Come to Mama, She Say”: From GLB’s last, and weakest, album, this is still slinky with a creaky, churchy keyboard, and a great sing-song chorus that builds from a whisper to a command.
4. “Folding”: After GLB’s demise, Phillips made an understated solo debut (“Ladies Love Oracle”) that put the emphasis on his voice and writing.
5. “The Sun Shines on Jupiter”: This plucky song gets its bounce from a piano part that sounds pulled straight from a saloon and perhaps a theramin?
6. “Love’s a Mystery”: Phillips’ second solo album featured a fuller production, as evidenced by this pulsating, keyboard-driven tune.
7. “Mona Lisa”: Phillips’ “Virginia Creeper” album was a rootsy, fiddle-friendly thing that opened with this fetching acoustic guitar and accordion-led song.
8. “Dream in Color”: After the understated “Virginia Creeper,” Phillips brought in more varied instrumentation and strings for 2007’s “Strangelet,” and this Buddy Holly-informed tune is one of its best.
9. “Happiness”: Also from “Mighty Joe,” this is a masterpiece of mumbled melancholy.
10. “Arousing Thunder”: From GLB’s third album, “Copperopolis,” the song sets up Phillips’ dissonant guitar as a stinging counterpart to the whispered refrain.
Grant-Lee Phillips/Glenn Phillips
When: 8:30p.m. Thursday
Where: Dosey Doe, 25911 Interestate 45 North, The Woodlands; Tickets: $20-$25