The title of the latest album (out March 16) from Grant-Lee Phillips comes from the lyrics of “Moccasin Creek,” one of the evocatively detailed songs that shows his music benefitting from such a tight focus. Phillips’ previous work has often had a broader scope, but when he deals in widescreen epics and self-important anthems, his breathy voice can have a ponderous, weight-of-the-world feeling to it. Here, that voice is as warmly disarming as his melodies, and his vision is crystal clear.
His relocation from Los Angeles to Nashville seems to have renewed and relaxed him, as this stripped-down, self-produced album benefits from a strong sense of time and place, a South that exists in memory. And perhaps in the best of The Band, whom this album’s “Holy Irons” and “Yellow Weeds” strongly recall.
The arrangements have an organic feel to them as well, punctuated by fiddle, steel, banjo, whatever enhances the song. The album works as an album, tracing a pilgrimage and a homecoming, with the opening “Tennessee Rain” providing absolution and the closing “Find My Way” bringing the themes full circle. The results are as richly satisfying and easy to digest as comfort food, and they wear as easily as your favorite flannel shirt.
Though this is Phillips’ eighth solo album, following his formative years fronting Grant Lee Buffalo, it sounds like a fresh start.