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Phosphorescent - Checked shirts and slide guitars
on 23 May 2010
Phosphorescent's Matthew Houck is probably one of those American writers and singers who knows that in ten years time a coterie of very hip young bands will record a huge tribute to his songs, it will knock up mildly respectable sales, although nothing special and those "in the know" will name check him as an influence. Last year Houck did something very similar by recording a very strong album of Willie Nelson covers which didn't go overboard on the usual song suspects but was a joy to behold.
Thus we have the latest release from Phosphorescent aptly titled "Here's to taking it easy" a warm slice of road weary Americana with the emphasis on country (slides guitars are everywhere) rather than rock and with a couple of classic dark songs thrown in for good measure. The highlights come in the form of the bright brassy opener "Its hard to be humble when your from Alabama" where Houck opens with the well worn country observation that "Baby, all these cities, ain't they all startin' to look all the same"?. Things get darker on two outstanding alternative country ballads the first "Tell me baby have you had enough" a love song in the form of an apology with a nice guitar solo that which will not leave a dry eye in the house . "The Mermaid Parade" is one of the the albums true highlights and is another classic cracked heart ballad where Houck narrates a failed trip to the airport and wandering around Coney Island reflecting on a broken marriage and its consequences. With luck a Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard or even Ryan Adams (when he stops mopping around the place) will pick it up and turn it into a huge country hit. Finally mention should go to the gently amusing "I don't care if there's cursing" a rolling slide guitar driven song, and to one of the best songs of 2010 the eight minute plus "Neil Young like" gritty guitar driven epic "Los Angeles" providing a truly stellar finish to a excellent and solid country album. Granted no new ground is broken here and if you don't like country stay clear, but like fellow artist Jason Molina, the songs of Matthew Houck are vulnerable and so tender and all his albums repay your investment. Phosphorescence is a process in which energy absorbed by a substance is released relatively slowly in the form of light, it is the perfect description of this slow burning classic.