“If you don’t know K Phillips, you should start now.” Kyla Fairchild, Publisher – No Depression
On K Phillips debut American Girls, the West Texan champions the desperate, the sleazy and the broken, with small-town murals that glimpse into the jealousy of a sheriff, lovers that freeze to death and a crude lothario that misquotes dead poets. He prefers bygone rock sounds, leading his band on resonator, mouth harp, banjo, guitar, Hammond B3 and Piano, the latter being his primary tool. “The piano playing came out of necessity. I wanted to write country ballads, Motown grooves and gospel music and it’s not the same on the guitar,” he says, drawing from southern soul and rock as well — his heroes garnered from classic rock radio’s key kings like Leon Russell, Billy Preston and Gregg Allman.
Until 2006, Phillips was content working as a sideman even though he’d been writing since grade school. But when a close friend and a love interest drowned in two separate accidents, he feared ‘the rule of 3’ and made a decision not to leave “with these song inside.” The young startup label, Rancho Azul, approached Phillips (now living in Austin) to make an album, and his handpicked dream team of Texas musicians, including Bobby Keys of The Rolling Stones, Rick Richards of Joe Walsh and Jimmy Pettit of The Flatlanders — cutting the album live in 4 days.
Phillips is quickly drawing attention to his Texas spin on southern soul that backs lyrics that range from dark to humorous to plaintive. Though there are some desperate characters, as a writer he doesn’t want to take himself too seriously. “I get a kick out of out of the ridiculous and the lighthearted, and I don’t want to be afraid to be a little weird, a little fragile or a little dirty,” he says. “I got that from Warren Zevon. I always loved how his songs and characters could be absurd or sardonic but at the same time achingly beautiful.”
- Kim Fowler