Published Mar 16, 2016After spending the entirety of his 20-plus year career based in his home state of California, Grant-Lee Phillips picked up his acoustic guitar and moved to another American music hub: Tennessee. Years earlier, Jerry Roe, grandson of country music rebel Jerry Reed, offered to put together a band with him if he ever decided to record in Nashville, so for The Narrows, Phillips took Roe up on his offer, opting to record his eighth LP with a small trio, including drummer Roe and session bassist Lex Price (k.d. lang, Taylor Swift, Shemekia Copeland).
The results see the 52-year-old singer/songwriter expanding on the rootsy, Americana sound he's experimented with over his past few albums. What could have been a declaration of his newfound success within the country nightlife mecca of Nashville ended up being a quiet, reflective and striking foray into sparse, dusty singer/songwriter country folk. There are few effects or and minimal instrumentation throughout The Narrow's 13 tracks, as Phillips tends to whisper and lament through songs like "Cry Cry" and "Yellow Weeds." But the biggest departure seems to be how genuinely soulful Phillips comes off on tracks like the haunted "Smoke and Sparks" and the tender "No Mercy in July." On The Narrows, Phillips hasn't so much reinvented his craft, he just reinvented his perspective. (Yep Roc)