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Grant-Lee Phillips
 
 
 
 
 
   
   
 
GRANT LEE PHILLIPS
Announces Dublin Show as part of his European The Ballads Tour
::: LIVE ::: Whelans, Dublin ~ Monday April 28th
New Album "STRANGELET" Out Now on Cooking Vinyl
www.grantleephillips.com
Of the forthcoming tour, Phillips says, "I have always found my acoustic shows to be rewarding in a unique way. There is something about breaking it down to the voice and guitar alone on a nightly basis that enriches my relationship to the song. I find myself getting in touch with the lyrics and the melody on another level. It is an opportunity to experience the music in a personal way, very close to how it was first played in my living room or sitting on the edge of a hotel bed. The truth is, regardless of what path an album's production may eventually take, for me the writing almost always begins with the voice and the guitar. That is my hammer and chisel, the most basic tools. I also love the freedom that simplicity allows. That is a big one for me. A song should be alive, open to new inspiration and interpretation. That is the beauty of going it alone, one man? six strings?”

One of the most accomplished songwriters of his generation, Phillips matches poetic introspection with a visceral undercurrent of uncertainty and wonder. Strangelet, his latest and 5th solo studio album in seven years, follows on the heels of his 2006 nineteeneighties covers release, and the 2004 critically acclaimed Virginia Creeper. Strangelet was written, engineered, produced and performed almost entirely by Phillips himself. He played most of the instruments including piano, bass, guitars, organ, baritone horn and even ukulele.

Described as having "a rare gift of empathy" by Entertainment Weekly, and named male vocalist of the year in 1995 by Rolling Stone, Phillips’ music has been featured in a diverse range of films and television shows, from Gilmore Girls ("Spring Released," "Lily-A-Passion,""Raise the Spirit") a show where he continues to appear as the Stars Hollow Town Troubadour to Roswell ("Beautiful Dreamers"), Six Feet Under ("Humankind"), House ("Happiness"), and Grey's Anatomy ("Under the Milky Way"). Phillips also scored the entire first season of ABC's What About Brian, and FOX’s new sit-com The Return of Jezebel James (by Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino).

The Ballads Tour – tour dates in full :

Fri 25th April GLASGOW, King Tuts
Sun 27th April LONDON, Scala
Mon 28th April DUBLIN, Whelans
Wed 30th April OSLO, Rockefeller Music Hall
Thu 1st May TRONDHEIM, Blaest
Fri 2nd May BERGEN, Hotel Norge
Sat 3rd May STAVANGER, Folken
GRANT LEE PHILLIPS
STRANGELET
The Strange Matter Of Mr. Grant-Lee Phillips­


Hurtling across our solar system at nearly a million miles per hour, a microscopic mite of rather mysterious matter smashes into Earth, rocketing straight through the solid ice sheet of Antarctica. Seismographs around the globe go haywire. Twenty-six seconds later, on the other side of the equator, the speeding speck explodes from the floor of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sri Lanka, continuing its journey through the universe unabated. It happened on October 22, 1993. Or so some scientists speculate.

Strangelets. Subatomic quark-related clusters of old school Big-Bang-style strange matter, so dense and volotile that even the most diminutive dot could theoretically swallow the planet up whole. Experts have yet to definitively prove the existence of such a quirky quark, but a much more tangible namesake has just burst into our atmosphere in the sonic form of Strangelet, the fifth solo release from acclaimed singer songwriter Grant-Lee Phillips.

Described by the former Grant Lee Buffalo ringmaster as a "record for strange times," Strangelet packs a deft emotional wallop, delving deep into the inner conflagrations of the soul ("Runaway") and the outer combativeness of human nature ("Chain Lightnin'"), while at the same time reveling in the troubled essence of rock and roll ("Johnny Guitar"). All in all, it's a massive amount of beautifully strange energy crammed into the confines of a compact disc. “The thought of all this strange matter floating around out there. That there’s more under the stars than we can ever imagine – black holes, white dwarfs…” Phillips reflects with a laugh, "It's kind of nice, actually...."

If the end of everything as we know it doesn't sound all that "nice" to you, perhaps you're unaware of Grant-Lee Phillips' lyrical knack for divining light from the darkness, extracting motivation from misery, and embracing the general life-affirming optimism that when one door closes, another inevitably opens. His cathartic, negative-to-positive alchemy works in subtle measure throughout the unfolding of Strangelet's twelve tracks, smoothly blending tales of heartache, conflict, and loss with stories of love, hope, and redemption. It's a work that's essentially grounded in the concept of confronting reality, relinquishing fear of the unknown, and refusing to be destroyed by things you can't see, things you can't control, and things that may not even exist. “We're constantly bombarded with 'Be afraid of this, be afraid of that.' I love the fact that even in the world of physics there's a whole terminology to convey the notion that things often behave in irrational and odd ways. There’s chaos in them thar’ hills.”

Phillips took this notion of inevitable unpredictability to heart even in the actual construction of the new album. While drummer Bill Rieflin and R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck lent their respective talents through scheduled studio sessions in Seattle, Phillips recorded the bulk of the material alone on his homegrown setup in Los Angeles, on the fly, whenever the urge happened to strike. “I've learned how to coax these things along, to leave it teetering on the edge, how to booby trap my own work so there's bound to be an accident." The end result of this semi-controlled spontaneity is Phillips' most personal and revealing work to date, a conscious exploration of the unconscious, one that sparkles with the honesty and the intimacy of a diary or a sketchbook. The singer agrees. “I've become more and more protective of that moment when an idea pops into your head, when the initial spark contains all the gesture you need, all the implications that are intended.”

A man of many proverbial hats indeed, Phillips incorporated any instrument within his reach during the course of recording - guitars, bass, piano, organ, baritone ukulele, the list goes on and on. It would be remiss not to relate a bit of his resume at this point, so let it be said that he's an accomplished visual artist, a seasoned composer forfilm and television, a magician, a poet, and a former roof-tarrer, as well as a crack actor - often seen serenading the streets of Stars Hollow in his recurring role as The Town Troubadour on The Gilmore Girls.

But, back to the subject at hand, it's simply Phillips' longtime status as a diehard, passionate fan of high-octane rock and roll that fuels the engagingly eclectic sounds of Strangelet. Arriving on the heels of nineteeneighties, Phillips' cover-versions-only ode to some of his favorite acts of said decade, the new record continues to deliver nods to many of the artists who have inspired him, though this time in a much more subtle and far-reaching manner. Take a dash of hypnotic Sonic Youth and a pinch of ragged X, then blend it with a dose of John Lennon's plaintive honesty and a touch of Neil Young's twisted Americana. Add a sprinkle of soaring U2 and jangling R.E.M., then mix it with the toe-tapping rhythms of T-Rex and the raw rumblings of Gene Vincent. By no means is Strangelet's recipe that simple, limited, or obvious, however, so you've gotta give the top chef some serious credit. "I suppose I'm wearing my influences loudly on this album," smiles Phillips.

Arguably the most musically diverse work of his career, Strangelet somehow manages to be beautifully sparse and lavishly lush all at the same time - the latter quality accentuated by contributions from Los Angeles string outfit The Section Quartet. And while Phillips continues to relish the acoustic leanings of his previous solo works, Strangelet also features a triumphant return to the plug, with the course of such songs as "Runaway," "Soft Asylum," and "So Much" being propelled along by driving electric guitars.

Again, all in all, Strangelet is a very large number of ideas and inspirations encapsulated in a very small space. "It's not intentionally cryptic or abstracted," says Phillips of the record, "it's sort of how the song comes to me, kind of backwards and in many pieces. It arrives in that fractured form. In that sense maybe the album is a response to a fractured world as well - politically speaking, environmentally speaking. I do think Strangelet is a record for strange times, where there's currently a lapse of meaning. It's also a chronicle of my own personal state over the past couple of years, just longing for some sort of piece of mind..."

So at the end of the day, just forget all you've read here and simply listen. And say the word out loud: Strangelet.

"It sounds much better than it reads," laughs Phillips. "Microsoft Word spell check always asks me, 'Do you mean strangulate?' Mmmm...no...that's not what I mean..."


 
 
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  Grant-Lee Phillips is a consummate storyteller, a chronicler of personal and political history and mythology, whose work has been showcased both with his popular band Grant Lee Buffalo and on his own critically acclaimed solo recordings. Phillips’ latest album, Virginia Creeper, is a stunning collection of resonant story-songs that take the listener to new interior ports of entry.

As with the best of Grant Lee Buffalo, Phillips new solo album mines a mother lode of mythic Americana, indelibly chiseled characters, haunting balladry and a stark kind of instrumentation that seems to both define and defy it's place in time. Where his previous outing, Mobilize, was a one-man show with Phillips playing all the instruments, Virginia Creeper is an ensemble piece, hinging on the high voltage charge of the moment.

The old world strains of “Mona Lisa,” the resplendent “Lily-a-Passion” and the emotionally torn “Always Friends” are snapshots of the soul. Other songs like the enchanting delta tale “Josephine of the Swamps” and “Susanna Little” are historical epics that travel back in time to the dark crossroads of the early to mid-twentieth century. While "Susanna Little" captures the tearfully moving odyssey of the Native American begging the question "How far have we come?", the looming “Far End of the Night” casts a dashboard glow on a midnight journey, "with no savior there beside," when “time hangs like a noose.”

Once voted best male vocalist by Rolling Stone, Phillips has often taken his words to soaring heights. The songs on Virginia Creeper are no exception, full of visionary cinematic lyrics of both triumph and tragedy. From the heart stricken lover in “Dirty Secret” to the romantic wild abandon of "Wish I knew" the songs are painted by stark minimal gestures -- a lone guitar, an occasional fiddle, a tinge of parlor piano, brushed drums, upright bass, Cindy Wasserman's smoky harmonies weaving with Phillips mellifluous voice. " We found this blend in our voices, I never had to say a word, we just sang...” recalls Phillips. "...there's a shared love of Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Gram Parsons. We could sing that stuff for hours, did and still do..." This pairing led Phillips to include a gorgeous cover of Parsons’ “Hickory Wind”.

The new album was recorded quickly, one week of tracking and another mixing at Hollywood's famed Sunset Sound Factory with Grammy Award winning recording engineer S. Husky Höskulds. “I didn't want to approach it with excessive overdubs and I couldn't have made this album alone, by myself,” explains Phillips. “I'd done that with my last record, Mobilize. This time, the songs had a simplicity that would best be served by taking them into a studio with feeling, responsive musicians.” Those musicians included violinist and touring veteran Eric Gorfain, pianist Zac Rae, upright bassists Sheldon Gomberg and ex-Soul Coughing member Sebastian Steinberg, along with drummer Kevin Jarvis, with whom Phillips toured to support Mobilize. Along with vocalist Cindy Wasserman and the Section Quartet, this would comprise the live in-studio group, dubbed "The Virginia Creepers." Other friends and L.A. notables such as Jon Brion (ukulele), Bill Bonk (accordion), Greg Leisz (Dobro, pedal steel & mandolin) and Danny Frankel (percussion) added brilliant finishing touches as the session approached completion.

Since parting ways in 1999 with Grant Lee Buffalo, Phillips has carved out an impressive solo career. Newsweek called Mobilize “a triumph,” while The Boston Globe noted that “Phillips, like genre peers R.E.M. and U2, can still reach great heights.” Those heights are achieved once again with the aptly named Virginia Creeper, an album that grows on the listener with repeated listening. “I liked the metaphor,” concludes Phillips, “a slow but persistent vine, ever weaving, ever climbing—like a melody.” He adds: “I also like the idea of words as vines, songs as vines and as a symbol for my life, weaving persistently. It may not appear that there's any movement going on, but nevertheless there is. There's also something vaguely antique-ish about the title, which suits my obsession with all things decaying and the ghosts that have come to dwell in my songs.”


 
 
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© Denise Siegel
© Denise Siegel
© Denise Siegel
 
 
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