Sam Phillips: “Holding on to the Earth”
After posting Sam Phillips’ “Soul Eclipse” yesterday, I found myself with a Sam Phillips song running through my head all day afterward — but it wasn’t that one. It was “Holding on to the Earth,” from her breakthrough album, 1989’s The Indescribable Wow. That album was her first under the name “Sam” Phillips, as she had previously recorded under the name “Leslie” Phillips, performing what I guess would be considered Christian pop (admittedly, I’m not familiar with that phase of her career). She switched over to secular music with The Indescribable Wow, and it was a great career choice: she was clearly cut out for writing excellent ’60s-influenced alternative pop. The album is a great collection of updated Lesley Gore-style ’60s-girl-group and Beatlesque pop songs.
“Holding on to the Earth” is the song on the album that sealed the deal for me. It’s a haunting song of desperately trying to find meaning in life when everything seems to be slipping away. It features a gypsy-influenced harmonium backing that gives the song its haunted atmosphere, but the acoustic guitar accompaniment and Phillips’ solid vocals ground it and prevent it from becoming too ethereal. I could almost literally listen to this song again and again and never grow tired of it. And because it ran through my head again and again yesterday, I decided Phillips “earned” a second day here (and trust me, she deserves many more — see, in particular, 1994’s fantastic Martinis and Bikinis — but I’ll try to keep it reigned in).