Friday, April 17, 2009

Austin punk-folk legend Gretchen Phillips launches new album aided by members of Shearwater, Team Dresch, The Butchies.

“Lyrically, I Was Just Comforting Her retains themes and emotions that distinguish this Texas Music Hall Of Fame inductee, such as a desire for empathy and human connection in a world plagued by alienation. Sonically, the album is rich and diverse, an indication that Phillips will continue to inspire fans for another 20 years at least.” -- Exclaim!

“Equally comfortable working in sublime lilt and cheeky raunch, Phillips artfully navigates her way around the nexus of esoteric femme folk and punk rock cabaret. What’s significant about Comforting is the way it builds upon Phillips’ left-field pedigree to find more universal chords.” -- Austin Chronicle

When influential and adventurous musician Gretchen Phillips first began making music in the 1980’s, the notion of singing songs about being a lesbian was as alien as the thought of a black American president. Happily, today Phillips finds that many things have slowly-but-surely changed. “Back when I was first starting out it was a big deal to have a song about being gay, but 20+ years later that’s just not so novel, and I’m totally happy about that,” she says. “I’m glad that the world has progressed to where that’s not such a big deal.”

Phillips, who has just released her first new album in five years, I Was Just Comforting Her, (see below for links to four MP3s from the album) built her reputation singing about lesbianism while at the same time trying to avoid being marginalized by the mainstream. The Texas Music Hall of Fame inductee’s influence paved the way for many performers to follow -- Phillips was even given a notable shout-out in the song “Hot Topic” by Le Tigre. “Even though the world has The L Word now,” Phillips writes in a recent treatise, “my particular take on things, my unique lesbian vision is not ubiquitous.”

This type of ubiquity, however, is certainly her goal. “I don’t want my lesbianism to alienate people or for it to just place me into a niche,” she says. “Rather, I want to be able to show myself honestly and completely and to have that honesty create a connection because people can relate to it, even from the most disparate quarters. I believe that the more specific I am, the more universal I am.”

In completing her expansive new disc, Phillips was aided by an impressive cast of contributors, including drummer Melissa York (Butchies, VitaPup, Team Dresch), percussionist Thor Harris (Shearwater, Bill Callahan, Angels of Light and The Gretchen Phillips Xperience), former bandmate Andy Loomis (Gretchen Phillips Experience) and longtime collaborator Dave Driver. Phillips has engaged in multiple musical genres, from 80s punk band Meat Joy to 90s country/disco/rock/folk/pop band Two Nice Girls and onward into myriad other territories as a solo artist. I Was Just Comforting Her draws upon her vast array of creative genre-bending to make what ironically might be her most pop-oriented album to date. However, the album still retains the thematic elements that distinguish her work: a call for empathy and connection amid cultural and social alienation.

Artist: Gretchen Phillips
Title: I Was Just Comforting Her
Label: Seasick Sailor Records

01. Red State/Blue State (MP3)
02. Burning Inside (MP3)
03. Honey, I Feel So Good
04. Peola
05. Your Drinking
07. Swimming (MP3)
08. YOY?
09. In Case of Rapture
10. To the Lady C (MP3)

Gretchen Phillips Live:
05/10 Austin, TX @ Momo's
05/21 Atlanta, GA @ TBD Mondo Homo Fest
06/20 Chicago, IL @ Women and Children First Books
07/19 Guerneville, CA @ Fabulosa Fest

Tools and Hi-Res Photos:

On The Web:

Subscribe To Fanatic:–Promotion/7297716716

(continued from above…)
Produced by Rob Halverson and Phillips, it is, as its maker describes, “a big, thick slab of humanism.” This may be the theme of Phillips’ pioneering career. Though out and proud as a lesbian since her teens, as an artist Gretchen Phillips has always reached beyond her natural constituency to make music for everyone. Her seminal early 90s group Two Nice Girls was as notable for its unabashed joy in lesbianism as for its legions of non-lesbian fans. Phillips’ other bands have been similarly spirited and inclusive. Spanning folk, rock, country, gospel, punk and her own idiosyncratic take on the singer-songwriter form, Gretchen Phillips has blazed a twenty year trail of uncompromising personal artistry and openhearted musical communion.

Phillips observes just how things have changed over the years, writing “twenty years ago a couple of boys from the band Mary’s Danish popped into a show I was doing with Two Nice Girls and really enjoyed it. Later when we were talking it they told me that they’d gone to see Phranc because she was touted as an ‘all-American Jewish lesbian folksinger.’ They’d thought to themselves, ‘hmmm, we’re straight guys. What does an all-American Jewish lesbian folksinger have to say? Let’s check it out.’ And they loved her show. I don’t think that being out as lesbian needs to limit your crowd. Connecting with straight people has always been super important to me. I want for things to change and I want to be a part of that change. But we do want to be able to dance at this revolution. And, laugh and cry and fight and make up and perhaps be even a little better friends because we made it through that conflict. People are capable of so much more than is being expected of them. I’m interested in the challenge.

“And honestly, that’s what I love about I Was Just Comforting Her. I think I fucking pulled it off. I think that it’s a really listenable album. I don’t think that it sounds super preachy, but it has lyrical substance. It also has musical substance. I like to think that you can get into it upon a first listen, but that it really reveals itself with subsequent listens. Because it’s deep. I don’t mean to brag, but I listen to albums all day long and this is one of those deep ones.”

Phillips’ first release since Togetherness, her 2003 collaboration with Dave Driver, I Was Just Comforting Her stresses that longing for communion in stronger terms than ever. Opening with “Red State/Blue State” (MP3), a roiling electro-pop plea for hope and understanding, the album traverses broad sonic territory but stays rooted in a personal vision that insists on love and kindness in a divided society. The soaring country of “Honey, I Feel So Good,” the coiled rock of “Burning Inside,” (MP3) and the effervescent pop of “Peola” and “In Case of Rapture” stand along side harder to categorize pieces like “Swimming” (MP3) and “YOY?” to reveal the complex interior life of a musician at the peak of her artistry.

“For the last number of years I’ve been making albums more modestly than I did back with Two Nice Girls,” Phillips says. “And then I got hungry for really big production. Not big production for big production’s sake, but to make an album that utilized every instrument and sound that I felt would serve the songs. I decided not to scrimp on my recording budget and not to give myself any time constraints. I wanted to work on it until I was totally satisfied.”

Rob and I had a lot of fun meticulously going thru every song and basically putting down everything we wanted to hear and then we just mixed and mixed for maximum emotional impact,” she elaborates. “Since I gave myself free reign in terms of time, we did just joyfully work on this thing until it was done. And then when it was done we could tell.”

Phillips’ artistry has taken on a new dimension in the last two years. In addition to playing concerts, she has written and performed two acclaimed one-woman shows combining stories and songs into musical memoir. The first of these, Don’t Stop Believing, premiered in 2007 at The Off Center as part of the Rude Mechanicals’ prestigious “Throws Like A Girl” performance series. The latest, Manlove, the saga of Phillips’ struggles and triumphs loving the men in her life, premiered with a sold-out run at The Vortex Theater.

Along with expanding her performing frontiers, Phillips has applied her artistry to the packaging of the new album. Each and every copy comes in a package hand assembled by the artist herself.

Phillips considers I Was Just Comforting Her an epic saga full of individual songs, but meant to be heard in its whole sweeping scope. “It’s my grand concept album, like Spirit’s Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus” she says. “I love a bold statement, so I made one.”

Taking her inclusive message on the road, Phillips intends to tour behind I Was Just Comforting Her for the better part of 2009. Having already completed a west coast swing in February, plans also include trips to Canada, the midwest and the northeastern United States.

No comments: