Artist Spotlight

Review: Grant-Lee Phillips, “The Narrows”

No Comments 10 April 2016

Review: Grant-Lee Phillips, “The Narrows”

“Grant-Lee Phillips somehow manages to filter out all of the impurities of the world to deliver an intensely satisfying and timeless listening experience that transports listeners. The Narrows is a pure, beautiful and transformative record for the soul.”

Artist: Grant Lee-Phillips

Album: The Narrows

Genre: Americana / Rock

RIYL: Pete Yorn, Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams, Neil Young

Grant-Lee Phillips - The Narrows

There is perhaps no other contemporary artist I liken to the term “balladeer” more than Grant-Lee Phillips. He is equal parts rocker, folkie, and countrified crooner. His versatile and expansive catalog both as a solo artist and as frontman for Grant Lee Buffalo has set him up as the ultimate storytelling everyman. His newest album, The Narrows, delivers a brooding, contemplative set of songs that shakes and shimmies in that strange and familiar way we’ve come to know and love.

I’ll admit to my complete and utter bias in listening to this record; we go way back. I discovered Grant-Lee’s music over 20 years ago and could never get enough of his uniquely haunting vocals that could slide from a whisper to a howl that has served each experimental phase of his musical journey so well. This is his eighth solo record since 2000, a steady stream of acoustic-based folk rock that often takes surprising turns with alarmingly good results. Perhaps because his music in intertwined with so much of my own life experience, the weariness and wonder that I find in his lyrics and musicality continues to resonate even more boldly than before.

When “Tennessee Rain” opens, the soul-soothing begins. He’s a musician’s musician, and his songcraft is on full display from the first note to the last. “Smoke and Sparks” treads into mystical territory and puts the vocal track front and center, a vulnerable but confident Phillips drawing you into his world. The simplicity and beauty of this track exemplifies the depth of character that inhabits the entire record.

“Taking on Weight in Hot Springs” is a gorgeous tapestry of soulful lyricism. This is the song you get completely lost in, and makes it an easy favorite. “Loaded Gun” is a driving, classic-sounding track that leads into the country-tinged “Rolling Pin,” featuring a great vocal turn that exemplifies Phillips’ range and reach. It also recaptures the spirited rocker side that allows him to cut loose and pull out the electric guitars. Closing track “Find My Way” appropriately leaves us wanting more and paints a picture of a man who is continuing his journey through his weariness. The languishing tempo somehow giving way to hopefulness.

What’s so striking about The Narrows? Grant-Lee Phillips somehow manages to filter out all of the impurities of the world to deliver an intensely satisfying and timeless listening experience that transports listeners. A great songwriter and storyteller has the power to evoke vivid imagery and help you imagine you’re walking through their world. And a stunningly gorgeous one this is. The Narrows is a pure, beautiful and transformative record for the soul.


Grant-Lee Phillips: http://www.grantleephillips.com/

 

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