Grant-Lee Phillips

Virginia Creeper (Zöe)

SXSW Records

Grant-Lee Phillips

Virginia Creeper (Zöe) In February, Grant-Lee Phillips and his band appeared on Gilmore Girls, debuting Virginia Creeper's sweetly contemplative opener, "Mona Lisa." You might think The Gilmore Girls set is the wrong market for an artist like Phillips, but you'd be wrong. Virginia Creeper reveals the cult favorite styling himself as either the perfect girlfriend or the perfect boyfriend; it's unclear which. The LP, recorded live over three days and featuring spare, acoustic instrumentation, relies somewhat on the reliable story-song formula, but more often than telling someone's story, Phillips seems to be aligning himself with or identifying primarily with women in crisis, mostly of the emotional variety. "Dirty Secret" is a story told in confidence about the true nature of people, imparting wisdom to a loved woman who's younger and more naive than the narrator. His advice is simply, "everybody comes undone," punctuated by poignant instrumentation from the piano and steel guitar. One of Creeper's most striking tunes is "Always Friends," a breakup song that's surprisingly light on moodiness, despite its role as a rueful elegy for a relationship that ends with tearful hugs and no small amount of regret. Phillips' light touch with complex, fragile emotions woven into delicate tapestries never ceases to amaze. It's hard to listen to one of his solo albums and not fall in love with the longtime L.A.-singer-songwriter-rocker's depth, sensitivity, and empathy. (Thursday, March 18, 11pm @ Caribbean Lights)

****

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