Maybe music needed Donald Trump! Whatever you say about him, he has given us a year of the most weighty music, content wise, in a long time. Brexit might have helped a little too! World On Sticks is Sam Phillips’ contribution to the social and political commentary of the very uncertain times we are living through.
Phillips has always been a writer of some depth. Interestingly her music took on more prophetic punch after her phase as Leslie Phillips in the Christian Music world. That industry in the 80s and 90s was a little one dimensional content wise. When Phillips spread her artistic wings, was discovered by T-Bone Burnett who produced her and married her she became a songwriter of acute social observation.
Since divorced from Burnett both in a marital and production sense, World Of Sticks has the lighter production feel that made her album Fan Dance such a joy a few records back. Not that she doesn’t still reveal or eccentric Tom Waitsian nature with her percussive rhythms and instrumentation.
I have been buying Sam Phillips records for over thirty years and this might be the one I am enjoying the most. American Landfill Kings shows off her eccentricities best. An environmental apocalypse of a song asking how we got to be living on all our throwaway trash!
How did we find ourselves
Living on top of the things
That we don't want any more
Screaming while we cover our ears
We can't see ahead
And we won't see behind us
Praying that the true-false truth
Won't find us
Then How Much Is Enough which I think goes to the heart of our sickness:
Promising the good life to hide
What’s really being sold
How much is enough?
Then the prayerful hopefulness of Candles and Stars:
With candles and stars
And broken light from dreams like ours
We will still find our way through
In a great year for albums Phillips has added hers!