Shawn Phillips’ latest album offers a series of compelling stories and profound ideas by means of a musically masterful array of soundscapes. Phillips’ presents some brilliant melodies and an overall warm and full aura as this playlist pours through. Beginning with the provocative but increasingly joyful Life, the project succeeds in inspiring and entertaining; all with a valuable sense of unique freshness.
The Force That We Call Life follows the opener and settles into this Americana or blues-rock inspired organic mood. The piece offers drama and space, a heavy emotional presence, and a general feeling of well-being and possibility that’s a pleasure to experience.
Tribute to D afterwards leads with a welcomed dash of distortion and a subsequently captivating guitar rhythm – Phillips’ utilizes space and a fully artistic awareness to craft his songs, so there’s far more to the playlist than the simple progression of a melody or a written idea. This instrumental piece is an easy early highlight for its unpredictable yet uplifting presence, and a much appreciated hint of sax towards the end.
Man With a Gun lifts the energy higher and rains down with infectious riffs and a quickly memorable string of characteristics. C’Mon Round then takes things down a more Dire Straits sounding pathway of reverb and delicacy. A great bass-line and a wonderfully rhythmic bounce emerge afterwards as the song seeks to energize and inspire.
Song For A Thief marks a beautifully atmospheric and poignant moment, melancholy and intense but entrancing and gorgeous at the very same time. Every instrumental layer adds something bright and mighty to the soundscape. Then when the lyrics hit, there’s an added poetic aura that helps guide your thoughts. A personal highlight but also really well followed by the stunning acoustic guitar work of Bach To The Fusion.
In Grace We Intend brings back the vocal-led story-telling and folk-rock aura – that leading voice is easily recognisable now, and the realness with which the delivery appears helps underline these ideas and images in a bold way. Dancing In Survival then creates a series of short rhymes and a vibrant piano-led ambiance that feels smooth yet powerful at the penultimate moment. Coming close to six minutes long the piece undoubtedly weaves something quite intense around you.
The album ends with a wonderful song called Mirror Of Light. There’s no clear-cut style or genre label that can be applied to this project or to Shawn Phillips’ work in general. His passion and skill are for songwriting and music in general it seems. The process comes naturally to this artist. Reinforcing that sentiment is Mirror Of Light – a song that brings a hint of beach-side rhythm and some great guitar solos to the scene; feeling a little John Butler Trio-like during the verses. A great way to go out and a personal favourite for sure. An easy one to listen to a few times over, though the playlist in full is more than creative and eclectic enough to keep you interested again and again.
To find out more about Shawn Phillips visit his bio over at Bongo Boy Records.