Sam Phillips: “Soul Eclipse”
I would’ve thought that I could prepare for my wife’s birthday yesterday and still fit in writing a blog post, but it turns out I was wrong. Started with baking a cake in the morning (angel food, her fav), and the next thing I knew it was late afternoon, the kids were home from school, and so it went.
Sam Phillips has been putting out consistently excellent and underplayed music for over 20 years now, aided by her now-ex-husband, producer extraordinaire T-Bone Burnett, who produced all her albums through 2004’s A Boot and a Shoe (they divorced at that point). She is a thoroughly engaging and idiosyncratic songwriter and singer, and I have no idea why she isn’t better known, except that she generally turns a blind eye to the latest music trends and just does her own, often Beatles/John Lennon-influenced, thing. Really, she’s not unlike Suzanne Vega in that regard, who similarly has been putting out great music her own way for a long time.
There are so many great songs in Phillips’ catalogue, but I’ll venture forth here with “Soul Eclipse” from her 2001 album, Fan Dance. It’s a spare song with a chugging, distorted beat underlying a simple, rootsy acoustic guitar, punctuated on the chorus by the subdued distortion of an electric guitar. It’s a testament to how great and transfixing her voice is that it can be mixed so far up front and carry the song so perfectly — it’s the song’s most fascinating instrument, in a song that makes a point of allowing each uniquely toned instrument open space to breathe.