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In a career defined by risk and reflection, Grant-Lee Phillips only just recently took on the biggest gamble of his life...and with the wager comes The Narrows.
For practically all of his time on Earth, songwriter Grant-Lee Phillips has reconciled widescreen mystery and wonder with his own experiences from a fixed vantage point.
"Los Angeles is a desert," he explains from the road in Oslo, Norway, "It's a hard place to plant your roots and a harder place to pull 'em up after some thirty years." In 2013, he did just that: The lifelong California resident transplanted himself and his family to landlocked Tennessee. As he was listening to the past, he heard echoes of his own experience - and those of his descendants - rolling off the Tennessee hills. "It held the promise of a quieter life," he says, "something resembling my own rural upbringing in the San Joaquin Valley. And the people of the mid-south reminded me of home - my dad being from Arkansas, my mom from Oklahoma. And the soundtrack of my boyhood was so often tethered to Nashville..."
This concentrated nexus of romance, recollection, historic struggles and tragedies, and peerless craftsmanship - coupled with the hopes, fears, and isolation that accompany transition - formed the backdrop of The Narrows, Phillips' latest dispatch on Yep-Roc Records. Bathed in a woody, warmly reverberating sonic signature, the album's thirteen songs are marked by longing and a resolute sense of purpose: As though hurling yourself full-force into the unknown is as sensible as any other more commonly prescribed course. After all, what feels unknown may be residing just below the surface - should you be willing to dig for it and be open to discovery.
The Narrows' depth of subject matter, starkly dynamic performance, and uncluttered poetry put Phillips' gift as a vocalist - as translator and living vessel of these ideas - to the test. His burnished tenor rings simultaneously confessional and confident, bringing an off-hand candor to his songs heaviest moments while imbuing the smaller moments with palpable awe.
Thus far, Grant-Lee Phillips' new home has lived up to its promise, the change of scenery producing an evocative, profound record that extends the city's legacy of homespun craftsmanship and off-the-cuff recording methods.
1. Tennessee Rain
2. Smoke and Sparks
3. Moccasin Creek
4. Cry Cry
5. Holy Irons
6. Yellow Weeds
7. Loaded Gun
8. Rolling Pin
9. Taking On Weight In Hot Springs
10. Just Another River Town
11. No Mercy in July
12. San Andreas Fault
13. Find My Way
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