With Widdershins, Phillips invests the insight, nuance, and wit that has distinguished his songcraft over the past three decades in a riveting dissection of today’s fraught social landscape. Beneath the moment’s tumultuous veneer, Phillips uncovers resonances spanning centuries – patterns echoing from the present day to the distant past. In doing so, he unearths deep reserves of hope and even humor, transcending shock to reveal age-old cycles and archetypes – which Phillips delights in resurrecting.
Phillips explains. “I made a commitment to myself not to sink into despair: I’m tracing a longer narrative here. We’ve been through some of this before – not just our country, but the civilization as a whole…”
The urgency that first spurred Phillips informs Widdershins both lyrically and musically, as its twelve songs arrive in a headlong rush, with the sharp trio of Phillips (guitar, vocals, keyboards), Jerry Roe (drums), and Lex Price (bass) serving as messengers. Recording live in the studio – with all of Phillips’s vocals sung while cutting basic tracks – emphasizes the clarity and prescience of the material. Says Phillips, “This moment is explosive, volatile, and heightened. It’s important to me that the music reflect that – not just lyrically, but how it wallops you over the head. It should convey that same spirit of revolt, upheaval, and absurdity.”
The album’s title – meaning to proceed counterclockwise – emerged from the buoyant, surging opener “Walk in Circles,” which throws down the gauntlet on the record’s frontline. “St. Augustine said the wicked walk in circles,” muses Phillips, “and I thought, I have no problem with that. Sign me up with the witches then, if that means moving in step with nature – but let’s not go backwards.”
Growling and crooning, muttering about lost love, brimstone, and the glorious view from the underside of a rusty world-order, Owen holds the rhythm on mandolin and foot percussion. Bobby takes the opportunity to stretch bass notes into lyrical vines that vibrate somewhere north of your liver and flower unexpectedly at night.
Joining forces in Philly late in 2013, they’re coming soon to a bar, living room, alley or rooftop near you.