There are a lot of great folk singers who can deliver a song with a fine croon and a fluidly fingerpicked acoustic guitar. The ones of these who really stand out are the ones who are perceptive about the world around them and find something positive and lasting about humanity in the midst of strife. Strife, such as our current one, this global pandemic.
Seth Walker quickly stepped up to the moment with “We Got This.” Across the pond in Barcelona, Spain, David Philips found his own sunny angle, a silver lining to all this despair: Mother Nature is getting a much-needed break.
“Bliss (A Quarantine Song)” is set up with his usual simple but foot-tapping arrangement. Philips discovers ‘bliss’ from the normally smoggy Barcelona to a quieter one not overrun by tourists and emissions, where his “lungs get no abuse, while my ears rest quietly without a sound.”
Philips is certainly wanting this worldwide health crisis to end as much as the rest of us; he can’t gig as long as people crowded in clubs spread the plague. But he also asks, “Oh why can’t it just stay like this, with everyone at home/This could be eternal bliss, if we just leave well alone.”
Something well worth pondering over as we plot a new normal in the post-Covid-19 world.
As singer-songwriters go, the thing that makes David Philips stand out whether he’s making an acoustic-based bare-bones record or a more fully produced affair is that he’s got a lot of soul. It’s there in his voice and present in his melodies. Just as 2017’s Winter titled toward his rock side, Get Along, his latest from Black And Tan Records, makes that soul more overt. Philips has never been afraid to put out his rougher recordings, he embraces it and it’s really to our benefit because there’s nothing to hide and nothing critical is missing from the demos. This time — and he’s done this with a song actually called “This Time” — he’s putting his rough-hewn product side-by-side with his (relatively) polished handiwork, which in either case all the chores are handled by him, and it’s hard to tell which version is better. The demo version of “My Gravity” is full of funky spirit with Philips accompanied himself only with an acoustic guitar. That was placed immediately following the fully developed version of the same song, which has its own charms but the raw version remains just as satisfying. The blues “Nowhere” (video below) is also paired with its demo version but it’s the stripped down take that’s more energetic and played in a higher key, altered to the point that you could be forgiven for thinking it’s an entirely different song. Philips uncorks some nasty blues harp in the middle of it, too; there might not be much musically he can’t do like a boss. Folk-soul, head-nodding, finger tapping rhythm and blues in an down-home wrapper is what make full band tracks such as “Another Day,” “Trim” and remakes of his own tunes “Mountain To Climb” and “When I’m Drunk” so irresistible. As a bonus, Philips’ jazz background makes a rare overt appearance on the instrumental fusion-ish number “Red On Yellow.” One thing that isn’t rare at all about a Philips record is that it’s all done by himself, from the composing to the playing and singing, to the production, engineering and mastering. But DIY isn’t for everybody, only for those who can do it all and do it all right. Philips is clearly that guy, and now we know that even when he does something by himself two different ways, both ways are the ‘right’ way. Get Along is available now digitally and available in CD form in September 2018 for those who also want more of Philips’ avian art to enjoy.