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Phillips, Shawn: Continuance

That Shawn Phillips has worked with the likes of Eric Clapton, Ravi Shankar, Steve Winwood, George Harrison and Donovan should show you the esteem in which the music cognoscenti hold this idiosyncratic musician and songwriter. The fact that Phillips has also released 26 solo albums makes it all the more surprising that he isn’t something of a household name and yet, listening to Continuance, that riddle isn’t maybe so hard to fathom. For while this jazzy, hard rock, blues amalgam drips with class, Phillips is not a man for compromise. Commenting on the human condition and viewed as one single continual tale that flows from song to song, this latest solo effort from Phillips is full of home truths. Some we know, some we should know and some we probably don’t want to admit. Unsurprisingly, government is in his sights, the word of rule questioned and ridiculed, as people we vote for then take very little notice of those who put them there.

The cult of celebrity is also put to the sword; the haves and the have-nots compared through their genuine contribution to society. Why do we pour gold and riches on the lucky few, while ignoring the masses who care for us, make our everyday world the place it is and the people whose hearts are in the right place? It’s insightful, it’s honest and in many ways it’s uncomfortable. There’s no doubt of the truth behind much of it and yet little denying most don’t want to know. Vocally the man himself also has an uncompromising style, a very individual approach probably an acquired taste as the emphasis is put on message over prowess. In places there’s a tendency to over play the lyrics forcing the music to take second spot and yet we also get classy instrumental passages such as that in “Tribute To D”. “Man With A Gun” adds some flash-keys work and a more forceful guitar attack but yet again, it’s the staccato vocals that keenly take centre stage to get their message across. It is a hurdle that can be overcome but it can take a while.

Interestingly some of the areas that work best actually find Phillips doing spoken word over a starker, more barren background, album closing “Some Things Will Never Change” uncomfortable and unsettling, while “Furious Desperation” is so controlled, its anger is clear to hear in every syllable.

Continuance won’t be for everyone. In fact I’d suggest that both in music and in message it will preach to the converted, and yet its intention should be heard by all, even if the songs themselves will most likely never connect on that kind of scale.

Track Listing
1. Life
2. The Force That We Call Life
3. Tribute to D
4. Man with a Gun
5. Furious Desperation
6. C’Mon Round
7. Song For a Thief
8. Bach to the Fusion
9. In Grace We Intend
10. Dancing in Survival
11. Mirror of Light
12. Some Things Will Never Change

Added: December 8th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Shawn Phillips online
Hits: 821
Language: english

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