Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New Music from Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips - Don't Do Anything (June 3rd 2008)
It starts with her voice, "I thought if he understood, he wouldn't treat me this way. No explanations". There's a little electric guitar accenting the voice. And then comes the beat. A big tribal beat that is right up front in the mix and keeps growing and growing as the song continues on. It's not a fast song and when it is just Sam, it feels like a Boot and a Shoe song. But that big drum sound and the fuzzy guitar give it a new feel. "No Explanations" is the opening track to "Don't Do Anything" and a sign that Sam is not standing still in her musical style.

Sam has stated in an interview somewhere that she sees this CD as a cross between ABAAS ("A Boot and a Shoe") and "Martinis and Bikinis". It is easy to see. The big drums on some of the songs and the heavy use of a electric guitar along with several songs that have very catchy choruses really bring back the feel of her mid 90's sound. But the rest of the CD is Sam with her acoustic guitar or piano surrounded by deft drumming from Jay and always gorgeous violin from Eric which is very much the qualities we loved in ABAAS. In fact, this CD is pretty much a trio with Sam on piano and acoustic and electric guitars, Jay Bellerose on percussion and Eric Gorfain (The Section Quartet) on violin (and I understand banjo and other instruments of destruction). Patrick Warren helps out here and there and I believe there are a couple of bass players. The entire Section Quartet gets in on a few songs also.

"Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" and "Signal" are two of the older songs on the CD and it shows. The sound is very close to ABAAS with some lovely violin from Eric. I believe The Section Quartet are on both of them also.

"Another Song" and "Don't Do Anything" are back to back on the CD. I love this pairing of songs. They almost segue with no time gap between the two. "Another Song" is a beautiful piano based song that reminds you of ABAAS with Sam singing, "Did you ever love me?" while sweet voices sing "La La La" in the background. "Don't Do Anything" is a fuzzy electric guitar based song with Sam singing "I Love you more when you don't do anything?". Is she being sarcastic? Ironic? It seems that her tongue is firmly placed in her cheek. It is so different from "Another Song" and yet they fit together so well. The old (ABAAS) sound and the new style; blending beautifully.

Ever since I totally blew R.E.M.'s "The One I Love", I've avoided discussing lyrics. There are people that are much better at this then I am. But I have been listening to this Cd for several weeks now and I just can't resist making a fool of myself. So... Where "A Boot and a Shoe" was considered by some to be the breakup CD, "Don't Do Anything" finds Sam moving on after divorce. There appear to be references to this past relationship throughout the CD and there are still some emotions that need to be displayed. But there is no doubt that she is moving on. And that is what makes this CD so exciting. For Sam is driven by her passion to make music: To create art. It is her calling and songs like "Can't Come Down" and "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" seem to drive home this point. Lyrics from a Sam Phillips CD are never straightforward though. They are more like abstract paintings; giving you small glimpses of reality surrounded by dream like images. Then there is "Watching Out of This World" which seems to be using the TV show "Out of This World" as a metaphor. I wish I had a lyric sheet.

"Watching Out of This World" is the closer and I love it there. So many CDs just sort of end. When you hear "Watching Out of this World" you know the CD is coming to an end and that thought along with the song's feel make you feel a bit melancholy. And then you smile because with a running time of about 37 minutes, you have plenty of time to listen to "Don't Do Anything" all over again.

I generally don't put this much emphasis on a single CD. But the perfect combination of a great CD, an early release copy and a passion for one of my favorite performers made spending this much time and space irresistible. I will be featuring this CD on my station; playing all 12 songs throughout the day, every day until the release date (June 3rd). You can purchase this CD at Amazon.com or if you wish to pick up the CD with bonus mp3s, go to http://www.nonesuch.com/Hi_Band/albums.cfm?album_num=725# and order it there.

Music Hall Link - Cowboy Junkies 4-1-1996 listen