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Sunday April 20, 2014
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Grant-Lee Phillips Evolves

 

continued

Now, in mid-career, Phillips has begun to explore his Native American heritage. A registered member of the Creek tribe, he also has Blackfoot and Cherokee ancestors, some of whom walked the Trail of Tears. He has tried to put all these strands of influence together in his latest release, Walking in the Green Corn, which appeared last fall and should be well represented in his Ark show on May 17).

It's an ambitious piece of work, not consistently successful but also unlike anything else out there. A few songs on the album are laments for what was violently destroyed, but more use Native American imagery in a contemporary way: to make sense of love, to delve into the deeper textures of the soul, to respond to feelings of imminent threat. In the last category belongs "The Straighten Outer":

Thunder in the mountain terrace,

Lightning in the sky,

Hammer of the straighten outer,

Working overtime.

All the world's a rattlesnake

Waiting to unwind.

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