The moon's never seen me before, but I'm reflecting light
Sam Phillips
A Boot And A Shoe (Nonesuch)

by Marc Hirsh

originally published in Nashville Scene, September 16-22, 2004

Critic's pick: Sam Phillips @ Ryman Auditorium, Friday, September 17, 2004

It’s hard to believe at times that Sam Phillips’s pre- and post-millennial albums come from the same planet, let alone the same person. Having already fled Christian rock in the late 1980s to create skewed, crisply produced pop music like the Ralph Lauren-appropriated “I Need Love,” Phillips is now in the midst of a third clearly distinct phase of her career, where she seems remarkably at ease conjuring up a sort of gypsy Weimar cabaret. It could easily be only an affectation, but the songs on her new A Boot And A Shoe sound fundamentally born out of arrangements that other performers might use simply as window dressing. As a result, it’s almost impossible to guess where her melodies will take her honey-and-sandpaper voice. Like the lost triplet of Marlene Dietrich and Marianne Faithfull, Phillips is world-weary in the extreme (the aid promised in “One Day Late” is the very definition of cold comfort), but she’s wildly vulnerable at times, clinging to a desperate hope that some sort of magic is possible. – Marc Hirsh

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