Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Reasons To Quit
This is our last post before Thanksgiving (or, Thursday, for our fans abroad). Regular visitors will know what comes next, but for the newer folks, here's what happens: We begin our World-Renowned Daily (Daily!) Holiday posts! Goody gumdrops! This year we're doing it with a whole slew of twists, so stay tuned! If you're not sure what this is all about, check out our previous years' November/December posts, or come back on Friday for the full skinny! We're here for you, especially for you.
Now. For this post, we had to figger out exactly what we're thankful for. We're thankful for a new Bassholes record, but a retrospective of that band doesn't seem very "festive". So we'll wait on that. We're also thankful that the legendary Chris Knox is slowly recovering, and that his "famous" friends have gathered to record a tribute record to him (to help defray medical costs). But that deserves a separate post as well. We're thankful that all the Deep Blues Fest folks have been so generous in giving their time towards answering silly interview questions from us, but this aint a Friday, so those are going to come later. And we're thankful that James Hand has a new record out.
But today we're really thankful for Phosphorescent, his entire catalogue, and most particularly his newest record, "To Willie".
Prior to "To Willie", Matthew Houck has taken his musical persona, Phosphorescent, to a land of crest-capped, moon-washed oceans, waves washing the beach on an Autumnal night of stars and heaven dipping it's toe. Each record a surging, ethereal thing, full of hymn-praised ebbs and flows, Houck's warm, drawled and imperfect voice a whisper and a swelling chorus. Each album feels as if a piece, a muttered and flowing gospel to the smallness of life and circumstance.
With his latest record, "To Willie", Phosphorescent pared things down a bit, and gave us a collection of clay-baked Country tunes. Oh, and they're all Willie Nelson songs. And, apparently, Willie approves.
Many have covered Nelson's songs over the years (he did start out as a songwriter, after all), but few have transformed those songs quite the way Phosphorescent does. The tunes allow Houck to fully explore the Country'n'Western star long bubbling as underpinnings to his previous records, but still retain his unique persona. The fiddles and banjos and pedal steel guitars and the tightly structured three and half minute verse/chorus/verse nature of Nelson's writing push Phosphorescent to into a new territory, where he thrives.
Of course, there's always song selection, and the choices Houck makes seem tailor-fit. "Reasons To Quit", "Pick Up The Tempo", "I Gotta Get Drunk", and "The Party's Over" could have been written specifically for Phosphorescent, ruminations and late-nite regret.
It's hard to call a "covers" record a masterpiece, but this is no "covers" record. Phosphorescent makes these songs his own, forging the "olden times" with the new, the past with the future. It's a stunning transformation, both of Houck's own style and template, and Nelson's eternal grace and observation. What "To Willie" really does is miraculous. It makes you forget, for a time, the originals and becomes a new-created thing, posterity be damned.
The first song below is taken from the vinyl version of "To Willie". The rest are tracks culled from his previous records, "Pride", "Aw Come Aw Wry", and "A Hundred Times Or More". They're all worth you're time.
Phosphorescent: Reasons To Quit (mp3)
Phosphorescent: Cocaine Lights (mp3)
Phosphorescent: South (Of America) (mp3)
Phosphorescent: Last Of The Hand-Me-Downs (mp3)
Phosphorescent: Sunday Morning Coming Down (mp3)
Please support your local, independent Honky Tonk stars.