Grant-Lee Phillips’s days fronting Grant Lee Buffalo seem like a quaint memory now that the singer-songwriter has settled into a deeply satisfying solo career. This confident new album is among his finest works, a terrific showcase for his finely honed, deeply humane songcraft. His move from Los Angeles to Nashville has clearly influenced the sound and themes here; some of the best songs are marked by restlessness, and accented by pedal steel and nimble acoustic guitars (“San Andreas Fault”). “I’m lost but I keep walking/ Sometimes that’s all a man can do” he sings on the lovely lament “Find My Way.” These are searching tracks about the journey toward meaning and how the past informs the future. A boldly moving “Tennessee Rain” is both a baptism and an expression of catharsis — the narrator wanders “like a fool,” embracing the cleansing raindrops washing the tears from his eyes. Phillips’s early career tendency to overemote has yielded to a more relaxed vocal delivery, and an adroit band breathes life into his emotionally true songs.
ESSENTIAL “Tennessee Rain”
Ken Capobianco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.