Perhaps the first thing to mention here is the outstanding engineering of Wicker, which boasts an extremely flat recording...which is not, as the common understanding would have it in other things, a negative critique at all but rather a high compliment conveying how perfectly every single note was caught exactly as played. This isn't the same as audio verite, which is just the capture of a performance as-is, but rather a testament to the recordist's art. The sonic field is completely transparent and three-dimensional and the listener feels as though he or she could shake hands with the singer without leaving the parlor. Perhaps the most striking fact is that the 13-song menu was caught by six different sets of hands yet sounds completely like one top pro at, say, Sony or RCA.
The group name, Folk Festival, though, might at first be a bit baffling, as it isn't the encodation of a live weekend gig thrown by the singer but rather a reference to the potpourri of styles and modes contained in this wide-open CD. There's soul, rock, reggae, blues, folk, and bayou but it's all of the same cloth, Phillips being an incredibly adept composer and highly engaging singer. More, his base backing quintet is flawless, as are the dozen sessioneers, all joining together for a set of performances that would set Clive Davis' or Peter Asher's mouths a-drool.
Not a moment of this CD is less than sparkling, fully invested, happy, thoughtful, earthy, and rockin'. Phillips has vocal grit flanked by an engaging way with ornamenting his compositions. The reggae interlude, Pictures of Strangers, boasts a swirly jazz element reminiscent of mid-period Stevie Wonder circa Fulfillingness First Finale, and the entire CD is akin to a review of the last 50 years of roots n' rock musics polished up to diamantine brilliance. This guy deserves top drawer treatment and should be going places. We need music like this more than ever, what with the K-Tel superficiality of the charts and the slowly departing presence of past greats shuffling off the mortal coil. The Band, Waits, Dr. John, Taj Mahal, and a score other giant talents find themselves revivified in Phillips' music and now-wailing now-introspective earthiness.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles