Recorded locally at South Beach Studios, Jubilee stakes out different territory for the band, the core of which is singer/guitarist Grant Lee Phillips and drummer Joey Peters. Former Tonic bassist Dan Rothchild also joins in on Jubilee, a move that contributes to a much bigger and harder-edged sound than on the band's previous efforts. The group still looks to rural America for inspiration, but now they sound a bit less like the Jayhawks and a bit more like a shinier, happier Widespread Panic.
"Truly, Truly," which could be Grant Lee Buffalo's breakout track, is currently receiving heavy radio airplay in the Northeast. With a memorable hook and a huge, layered guitar sound, it's the kind of radio-friendly number that could make a long, steady rise up the charts. "Superslomotion" and "Crooked Dice" are similar rockers, set apart by their intelligent, folklore-derived lyrics. Meanwhile other cuts radiate a warm, slightly countrified feel. On "Everybody Needs a Little Sanctuary," banjo and accordion parts come to the fore. R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, whose band is clearly an influence throughout the album, lends his support with a subtle yet solid backing vocal.
But two of the most surprising and best songs on Jubilee boldly summon the spirit of the Beatles. The rambunctious title track re-creates the playful atmosphere of middle-period Fab Four, and "The Shallow End" is a heartfelt musical reminder of John Lennon's solo work.
Jubilee should take Grant Lee Buffalo places they've not yet been. Consequently, those territorial fans will just have to prepare for some interlopers.