Phosphorescent – To Willie [Album Review]

by oz on March 3, 2009


When I first read that Phosphorescent (aka Matthew Houck) was releasing a Willie Nelson tribute album, I thought to myself, “Oh shit. No you didn’t.” You see, I’m tight with Willie and his music is hallowed ground.

The earliest music memories in my life were listening to Willie Nelson. My parents had almost every album in all formats – vinyl, 8-track, cassette tape and later, the shiny compact disc. My mom still tells me how, as a four year old, I begged her not to sing “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” because she was ruining the song. I also remember closing my eyes and creating the characters and mental motion picture to Willie’s version of Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty,” one of my favorite songs of all time.

I know it’s a long prelude, but that’s the reason it’s taken so long to write about this album. I needed to sit with To Willie for a few weeks and absorb it’s subtle beauty in isolation. I think that’s how Willie intended these particular songs to be heard and I think Matthew Houck deeply identifies with each. Themes of loneliness, regret, lost love and painful hangovers. And Houck didn’t just pull one of the many greatest hits compilations to find the tracks. He had to lift up some rocks and search the nooks and crannies to find an amazing batch, many of which had faded from my memory.

And that’s when my “Oh shit” became an “Oh wow.” Phosphorescent delivers each song with sincerity and care and his vocal imperfections make these antiquities even more fragile.‚  Highlights for me are “Walkin,” “It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way” and “Permanently Lonely.”

I’ll admit that I’m late to the Phosphorescent party, but have finally started appreciating the echoing, experimental folk sound he delivers on his ’07 release, Pride.‚  In revisiting that album after hearing To Willie, I now actually hear a little of Willie Nelson’s outlaw country gospel influence on songs like “Cocaine Blues.” Maybe Willie will return the favor and record a few Phosphorescent tracks.

Phosphorescent – Reasons To Quit

Video: Phosephorescent – Too Sick To Pray

Video: Phosphorescent – It’s Not Supposed To Be That Way

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

DBT Chicago March 3, 2009 at 11:02 pm

willie rules. houck knows it. good stuff.

Woody March 4, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Bold choice. Excellent execution. Houck continues to shine in every aspect.

nittanyroar March 4, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Walkin’ is just incredible probably my favorite on the album, love that song.

Does anyone know what album “Right Now I Am -Roaming is off of? There’s a video for it on his myspace page.

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