"I'm drawing from the urgency of the moment," says acclaimed Nashville-based singer-songwriter Grant-Lee Phillips of Widdershins, his ninth solo album. Inspired by "the things that eat away in the late hours," Phillips invests the insight, nuance and wit in a riveting dissection of today's fraught social landscape. Recorded over four days at Sound Emporium in Nashville, the 12-track set was produced by Phillips (guitar, vocals, keyboards) and cut largely live in the studio as a trio with Jerry Roe (drums) and Lex Price (bass).
Mixed by Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, The Decemberists) and engineered by Mike Stankiewicz, the album delivers its poetic truths in Phillips' peerless melodic sensibilities, relayed via vocal performances that balance intensity and vulnerability. Lead single "Totally You Gunslinger" for instance is a backhanded salute with a mix that combines Roy Orbison with The Smiths.
"I made a commitment to myself not to sink into despair," explains Phillips, "I'm tracing a longer narrative here. We've been through some of this before – not just our country, but the civilization as a whole." Phillips sees in Widdershins a connection to his earliest work with Grant Lee Buffalo. "That was also a time of intense social anxiety. The Gulf War, the LA riots – everything became cranked up. Then a few years later there was the earthquake we lived through, which also made for a time of uneasiness. I was in a heightened state when I wrote that stuff – as I am now."