Matthew Houck has a highly distinctive artistic voice and a refreshing, rolled-sleeves approach to his work. 2007?s Pride ? a spare and haunting work of country, southern gospel and forlorn folk-ish drone ?first caused ears to swivel in Phosphorescent?s direction. He followed it with To Willie, then 2010?s Here?s To Taking It Easy, an enthusiastic plunge into country rock and rolling Americana. Now, his sixth album Muchacho flashes yet another color in the subtly shifting Phosphorescent spectrum.
Phosphorescent: Live / Ghost Lights
After making one of 2010's albums of the year with Here's to Taking It Easy, Phosphorescent return with an EP Live/Ghost Lights to round out a killer 2010. The six track release comes with two live-in-studio versions of old material, "A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise" and "South (Of America)" as well as a live rendition of Willie Nelson's "It's Not Supposed to Be That Way." Recorded at Headgear Studio, these were done right before the band recorded Here's to Taking it Easy and prove to be exceptional overhauls and are much more in keeping with the current Phosphorescent live entity. The other three tracks were recorded live in empty theaters throughout North America, tracked during sound check while the band was supporting David Gray. Included here is a rousing cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hey That's No Way to Say Goodbye." Previously sold on tour, these are the last remaining copies of this limited edition CD.
Phosphorescent: Here's To Taking It Easy
Just 20 seconds into the new Phosphorescent album, you hear something so immediate, so purposeful, so damn infectious, it's clear that something special is underway. The first album of original material since 2007's Pride captures the band moving into a truly extraordinary place. Here's to Taking It Easy is the culmination of the past three years: a grand statement, the album we dreamed Phosphorescent would make. Pride was a deeply personal, haunting record that Phosphorescent's Matthew Houck recorded on his own, playing all of the instruments himself. 2009's To Willie (their tribute to Willie Nelson) featured Houck joined by his bandmates, rambling through the Nelson catalog with fifths of whiskey and undeniable swagger. So if Pride was built for 5AM and To Willie sounded just right as last call approached, where does Here's To Taking It Easy fit? This is the Phosphorescent record made for any time, any season.
Phosphorescent: To Willie
In 1975 Willie Nelson recorded the album To Lefty From Willie, 10 songs in which Nelson pays homage to Lefty Frizell, reinterpreting his favorites from the Frizzell catalog and stamping them with his own unique voice, reshaping them into his own new classics. Now Phosphorescent has done the same for Willie Nelson by bringing us To Willie. Here, Matthew Houck has selected 11 of his favorite Willie Nelson songs and does much more than just simply cover them. He has not selected the greatest hits, but rather digs deep, offering renditions of hidden Nelson gems and lost classics. The songs collected here seem cracked from Phosphorescent?s proprietary mold with Matthew Houck?s unmistakable voice leading the way. They feel lived in, they feel weathered and they feel just like Phosphorescent. Recalling the finest moments of the late-?70s work of Waylon Jennings and Nelson himself, Phosphorescent has delivered a glorious hangover of an album. It is so much more than a collection of Willie Nelson cover songs--it is a full-blown new classic. As the liner notes of Nelson?s To Lefty From Willie simply state: ?This album is an unabashed musical love letter. From one towering talent to another.? We couldn?t have said it better ourselves.
Musicians often head to New York ? it's a familiar story. But something magical happened when Matthew Houck picked up stakes halfway through making his new Phosphorescent record, Pride, and moved to Brooklyn from Athens, Georgia. Pride is something different. While it's not without the moments of sheer abandon that have made Phosphorescent's work unmistakable?"At Death, A Proclamation" thunders into familiar territory?mostly gone are the messy marching bands and evangelical fervor. Here, Houck instead channels something more mystical and haunting, offering up a dark, meditative set of songs that is all the more spiritual-sounding for its restrained tone. On previous albums, he's recruited guest musicians to fill the gaps, but on Pride, Houck has only enlisted the services of a makeshift choir, otherwise recording every instrument himself. His achingly cerebral delivery recalls Arthur Russell, but honestly, Pride sounds like nothing else we've ever heard. These are poems uttered in an empty field, punctuated by shouts and hollers, as if from a singer either abandoned or possessed. The lyrics are Houck's strongest ever, wrapped in washed out choral etudes that could be channeled from a rural French chapel or a solemn African tribe in prayer. Pride sounds like it was made by a man set free. In fact, Pride sounds broken free of time and place altogether. Yet still it is warm, familiar, and welcoming?a