Grant-Lee Phillips – Widdershins (2018) [FLAC 24bit/44,1kHz]

Grant-Lee Phillips – Widdershins (2018)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 38:38 minutes | 453 MB | Genre: Country
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © Yep Roc Records

“I’m drawing on the urgency of the moment,” reflects Grant-Lee Phillips. “The things that eat away in the late hours” That urgency inspired the headlong rush of Widdershins available February 23 via Yep Roc in which Grant-Lee Phillips invests the insight, nuance, and wit that has distinguished his songcraft over the past three decades in a riveting dissection of today’s fraught social landscape. Beneath the moment’s tumultuous veneer, Phillips uncovers resonances spanning centuries ‘patterns echoing from the present day to the distant past. Its twelve tracks were cut largely live in the studio with the sharp trio of Phillips (guitar, vocals, keyboards), Jerry Roe (drums), and Lex Price (bass) serving as messengers. Says Phillips, ‘This moment is explosive, volatile, and heightened. It’s important to me that the music reflect that… By turns sardonic, provocative, and illuminating, Widdershins (produced by Phillips and mixed by Tucker Martine) delivers its poetic truths through Phillips’s peerless melodic sensibilities, carefully balancing intensity and vulnerability. A now seasoned songwriter and performer, with more than two decades’ experience first as front man of the acclaimed Grant Lee Buffalo then as an accomplished solo artist, Phillips awakens comfort and hope by shining light into darker corners. ‘I hope to express my faith in people, my faith in the good ideas we’re capable of, and that regardless of what opposition we face, the fact that we can surmount these things,’ he concludes. ‘We can stare them down, laugh at them, belittle them, and drive the darkness back into a hole.’

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “widdershins” as “in a left-handed, wrong, or contrary direction,” and it’s not hard to feel that word applies to plenty that’s going on in America in the year 2018. It certainly seems Grant-Lee Phillips feels that way, but he’s greeting a chaotic time with hope, defiance, and a heart full of rock & roll on the album Widdershins. In the album’s first song, “Walk in Circles,” Phillips sings, “I’d rather go down fighting for the water/Than start another war for oil/Go find another way to fill the coffers,” and it’s just one of several tunes where he takes a stand against fascism and greed, and in favor of a better world for us all. But even though Widdershins is clearly informed by what’s at stake in Trump-era America, this isn’t a set of cookie-cutter protest songs. This album is full of joy and purpose, and Phillips has married them to a great set of hooky tunes with a folk-rock slant. He hasn’t entirely abandoned the moody undertow that’s always been a part of his music, but the unspoken message behind these songs is that this is not a time to brood, and Phillips has rarely sounded quite this lively and direct. Widdershins was recorded with the same rhythm section Phillips used on 2016’s The Narrows, bassist Lex Price and drummer Jerry Roe, with the headliner handling guitar, keys, and vocals, and the finished product sounds remarkably full-bodied for a trio. Phillips and his partners rock with conviction, and when the tempo slows, the music is still full of emotional force. And “King of Catastrophes” sounds like the best Joe Pernice song to appear since the Pernice Brothers called it quits. Full of heart, courage, and passion, Widdershins finds Grant-Lee Phillips going from strength to strength after The Narrows, and it ranks with his best solo efforts. ~ Mark Deming

1. Walk in Circles (03:32)
2. Unruly Mobs (02:27)
3. King of Catastrophes (03:13)
4. Something’s Gotta Give (03:03)
5. Scared Stiff (02:31)
6. Miss Betsy (03:29)
7. The Wilderness (03:26)
8. Another, Another, Then Boom (02:56)
9. Totally You Gunslinger (03:31)
10. History Has Their Number (03:56)
11. Great Acceleration (03:36)
12. Liberation (03:03)