Paste reviews Don’t Do Anything

Will I see you at the Borders bookstore in Redmond, Washington next Wednesday? Sam Phillips will be there, playing songs from her new album Don’t Do Anything. And if you need any more persuading to pick up a copy, here’s a review in Paste:

[Phillips'] latest, Don’t Do Anything, rivals the best of her catalog. But while, musically, these 12 originals slot in neatly alongside the intimate grooves of Fan Dance and 2004′s A Boot And A Shoe, they introduce an important new wrinkle. For the first time since 1987, Phillips went with a producer other than her longtime creative foil (and now ex-husband) T Bone Burnett: Herself.

The difference is subtle yet clearly discernable. This is Sam Phillips unvarnished.

Nowhere are her quiet powers of persuasion more evident than on “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us.” Burnett already recorded this number, on the Robert Plant/Allison Krauss collaboration he produced, Raising Sand. Contrasted with that mellifluous reading, Phillips’ version feels like a ceremonial dance around a bonfire, the tempo pushing forward oh-so-gradually as strings weave in and out. If she ever decides to ditch her musical career, the singer could probably enjoy success as a charismatic cult leader.

Phillips has proven herself capable of appealing to mass audiences, via her long affiliation with The Gilmore Girls. Heck, she had a song on one of the best-selling albums of 2007. But mainstream popularity has never been her aim. “I’d rather make art than make my dreams come true,” she quoted in the album’s promotional materials. On Don’t Do Anything, she succeeds beautifully by doing nothing more than being the best possible version of herself.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.

  • mattnightingale

    Can’t wait to see Sam in Redmond on Wednesday… It’ll be good to meet you, Jeffrey!