Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Phosphorescent "To Willie" (2009)
"To Willie" is Phosphorescent's ode to Willie Nelson, focusing primarily on Nelson's early 70s material for Columbia. The album cover itself is an homage to Nelson's "To Lefty from Willie" album, itself a tribute.
The implication is that this should be listened to in the context of the country music tradition of cover albums, a popular tactic in the pre-Beatles era when there was a purer distinction between songwriters & performers. The problem with this approach is that the cover album concept works best when the performer is a unique stylist who is then challenged with bringing their own style to the earlier works of a master songwriter. Phosphorescent isn't even remotely on that level of stylist. While a competent indie country rock act, they don't have an instantly recognizable sound.
Additionally, Phosphorescent fall prey to the indie fallacy that legacy acts were all singularly toned. Willie, for example, is viewed through a lens of slow late night ballads. This removes all the swing from Willie's arrangements (and a crucial part of his sound).
Still, "To Willie" is an enjoyable, if minor release. Recommended for late night listening.