I'm drawing on the urgency of the moment, reflects Grant-Lee Phillips. The things that eat away in the late hours
That urgency inspired the headlong rush of Widdershins available February 23 via Yep Roc in which Grant-Lee Phillips invests the insight, nuance, and wit that has distinguished his songcraft over the past three decades in a riveting dissection of today's fraught social landscape. Beneath the moment's tumultuous veneer, Phillips uncovers resonances spanning centuries patterns echoing from the present day to the distant past. Its twelve tracks were cut largely live in the studio with the sharp trio of Phillips (guitar, vocals, keyboards), Jerry Roe (drums), and Lex Price (bass) serving as messengers. Says Phillips, This moment is explosive, volatile, and heightened. It's important to me that the music reflect that...
By turns sardonic, provocative, and illuminating, Widdershins (produced by Phillips and mixed by Tucker Martine) delivers its poetic truths through Phillips's peerless melodic sensibilities, carefully balancing intensity and vulnerability. A now seasoned songwriter and performer, with more than two decades' experience first as frontman of the acclaimed Grant Lee Buffalo then as an accomplished solo artist, Phillips awakens comfort and hope by shining light into darker corners. I hope to express my faith in people, my faith in the good ideas we're capable of, and that regardless of what opposition we face, the fact that we can surmount these things, he concludes. We can stare them down, laugh at them, belittle them, and drive the darkness back into a hole.
Like a baseball player who quietly hits 30 home runs every year or a golfer who regularly finishes in the Top Ten, Josh Rouse's continued streak of excellence is easy to ignore and maybe even downplay a little -- Tim Sendra, Allmusic.com
You don't have to work hard to enjoy Rouse's music. His songs present themselves to you with an open heart, an innate intelligence and an absolute lack of pretension. They are clear-eyed, empathetic and penetrating. Without pandering, they seek to satisfy both your ear and your understanding. The verses draw you in with telling detail, both musical and thematic, and the choruses lift and deliver. They resolve without seeming overly tidy or pat.
Josh Rouse was born in Nebraska, and following an itinerant upbringing he eventually landed in Nashville where he recorded his debut Dressed Like Nebraska (1998). The album's acclaim led to tours with Aimee Mann, Mark Etzel and the late Vic Chestnut. The followup- Home (2000)yielded the song Directions which Cameron Crowe used in his film Vanilla Sky.
Every time I've made a record, I've tried to make it different from the last one, says Rouse. I always became fascinated by a different style of music. But at the end of the day, no matter how eclectic I try to make it, it's my voice and melodic sensibility that tie things together.
For his breakthrough album, 1972 (2003), which happens to be the year he was born, Rouse decided to cheer up a bit. Noting that he'd earned a reputation for melancholy, he says, with a laugh, I figured this is my career, I might as well try to enjoy it. While the Seventies are often identified with singer-songwriters, Rouse was primarily attracted to the warmer sound of albums back then, as well as the more communal feel of the soul music of that time. The follow up, Nashville (2005) continued the hot streak and expanded his audience further.
After relocating to Valencia, Spain with his wife Paz, Rouse has released a steady stream of high quality songs and albums. Subtitulo (2006) contained the international indie folk hit "Quiet Town". On El Turista(2010) he even experimented with writing and singing some songs in Spanish. In 2014, he won a Goya Award (the Spanish equivalent of an Oscar) for best song for "Do You Really Want To Be In Love," from the film 'La Gran Familia Española.'
His most recent release, The Embers of Time, was one of his strongestself-described as my surreal, ex-pat, therapy record. Charles Pitter astutely noted in Pop Matters. The critics may long for drama and scandal, but The Embers of Time often demonstrates that a simple life could be for the best.