Grant-Lee Phillips – Widdershins

Grant-Lee Phillips latest album Widdershins is a finely wrought collection of songs

Album Review by Pete Wild | 20 Feb 2018
Album title: Widdershins
Artist: Grant-Lee Phillips
Label: Yep Roc Records
Release date: 23 Feb

Still best known for his 1993 album Fuzzy, recorded as part of the band Grant Lee Buffalo and labelled 'album of the year' by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe at the time, frontman Grant-Lee Phillips has settled into a career of being “criminally underappreciated” (Mother Jones) even as he continues to produce timely, politically engaged college folk rock. 

Widdershins finds Phillips doing much as Calexico did on their recent The Thread That Keeps Us LP – looking at the world, wondering WTF and making killer music as a direct result. As you’d expect from someone who made a covers album over a decade ago called nineteeneighties in which he covered all of the formative bands he grew up with (Echo & the Bunnymen, The Smiths, New Order, Robyn Hitchcock and the aforementioned R.E.M.), he wears his influences on his sleeve.

There are heartfelt acoustic rockers like album opener Walk in Circles, King of Catastrophes with lines like 'When I hear of fascism / I wouldn’t put it passed him’ and Miss Betsy. Then there's more literate fare you could imagine Lloyd Cole turning in, like Unruly Mobs and album standout Totally You Gunslinger, and all-out throaty shoutalongs like Scared Stiff, Great Acceleration and Liberation.

All told, it’s a finely wrought collection that could appeal to fans of The Decemberists or Vetiver as much as some of those longer-in-the-tooth bands, and proof for those of us who need it that we’re not alone, that other intelligent people think the world is going to hell in a handcart but as it goes we can at least enjoy a good tune or two.

Listen to: Walk in Circles, King of Catastrophe, Miss Betsy, Totally You Gunslinger