Many accomplished singer/songwriters first made their mark as solid backing musicians. K Phillips is a talented artist who has played with an array of acts as a sideman on keys and other instruments. With American Girls, Phillips strides to the forefront to deliver a revealing and striking debut album.
The record is a trip through styles and Phillips shifts his voice and melodies in a range of directions that travels though all the facets of Americana music. From honky-tonk and folk to heartland rock and deltafied soul. It’s all here. From behind his keys and harmonica, Phillips belts out a staggering blitz of songs that evoke musical comparisons to the most interesting musical romps taken in the 70′s by Elton John, The Band and Leon Russell.
Album opener, “To Dance With You” holds an appropos title as the popping snare drum breakdowns will have you tapping your toe in no time. With lyrics such as “I dealt with the devil to dance with you…”, it’s a new spin on an old theme in love songs. “You Don’t Hafta” is Heartbreaker era Ryan Adams with a bit more groove. Phillips’ singing voice often recalls the timbre and flexibility of Adams’. “Does It Hold Water” includes a booming saxophone solo that would’ve made Clarence Clemons smile, in addition to a spirited harmonica interlude from Phillips. “Rambler” reminds of Rusty Wier at his feisty free-spirited pinnacle. The haunting gospel-tinged “Sheriff’s Wife” closes out the album with a boomerang bookend to the bouncy, dancing opener.
This is not a perfect record. The lyrics reek of a little too much romantic wanderlust at times, some of the vocals are mumbled slurrily, and at points it all seems intrinsically indulgent. That being said, this album would be impressive for a veteran band. Let alone a debut record. That fact makes this effort even more impressive. K Phillips has created something wholly unique in any genre for 2012. A contemporary record of original tunes that sounds authentically vintage in concept and quality. American Girls is worth spending some time with.