“While this is the second album recorded with the Roe/Price rhythm section, it marks the first collaboration between producer Phillips and Widdershins mixer Tucker Martine (case/lang/veirs, My Morning Jacket, Bill Frisell, the Decemberists, Punch Brothers, etc.) “I’ve wanted to work with Tucker for a long time,” says Phillips. “It was clear that we spoke the same language and had comparable sensibilities.” For instance, when starting work on the backhanded salute “Totally You Gunslinger,” Phillips suggested they aim for a mix that combined Roy Orbison with The Smiths. “Somehow that made as much sense to him as it did to me.”
Grant-Lee Phillips’s gifts for reconciling classic touchstones with an adventurous sensibility has distinguished his work since he first emerged as the frontman of the acclaimed trio Grant Lee Buffalo in the early ‘90s. At once cinematic in scope and disarmingly intimate, the band’s music set the table for a varied, captivating solo career that embraced electronic soundscapes (Mobilize, 2001), reimagined country-rock (Virginia Creeper, 2004), faced fatherhood (Little Moon, 2009), delved into his own native American heritage (Walking in the Green Corn, 2012), and reflected upon his own life-changing move from Los Angeles to Nashville (The Narrows, 2016). Whether fronting a band or performing solo, he is a riveting live performer – which many discovered through his role as the town troubadour on the cult television hit The Gilmore Girls(both in its original run and the 2016 continuation).
Phillips sees in Widdershins a connection to his earliest work with Grant Lee Buffalo. “That was also a time of intense social anxiety. The Gulf War, the LA riots – everything became cranked up. Then a few years later there was the earthquake we lived through, which also made for a time of uneasiness. I was in a heightened state when I wrote that stuff – as I am now.”
As the past and present converge and the journey of Grant-Lee Phillips continues, his craftsmanship continues to blossom. In times of tumult, he awakens comfort and hope by shining light into darker corners. “I hope to express my faith in people, my faith in the good ideas we’re capable of, and that regardless of what opposition we face, the fact that we can surmount these things,” he concludes. “We can stare them down, laugh at them, belittle them, and drive the darkness back into a hole. Music is a way of kicking some of these giants out at the knees – along with a bit of gallows humor: All the noose that’s fit to print…” (Yep Roc)