During a set at SxSW, our friend Abe from Dead Oceans mentioned that the new Phosphorescent album was going to blow us away. I begged for an advance copy, but much like my female-chasing endeavors in high school, I struck out and was made to wait.
The wait was well worth it. Here’s To Taking It Easy opens with a honky-tonk inspired track, “It’s Hard To Be Humble (When You’re From Alabama),” complete with a rollicking horn section and slide guitar. It brings back memories of The Dead performing Haggard and Cash covers. Always my highlight in any Dead show.
“Mermaid Parade” is a break-up tune for the ages. Houck sings of a cross-country romance gone sour due to long distance. The guitar work is gorgeous as Houck sings woefully about his lost love. This is followed by “I Don’t Care If There’s Cursing” which sounds like it was written and recorded in a half hour’s time. It’s as if Houck asked for a lively bass line and then built a song around it in minutes. They keys serve as background until the end when they come to the forefront and hit all the right spots.
Houck is uses the same band that he worked with on To Willie, which after seeing them three times on tour, I can say with certainty that it was a wise decision. Overall, I feel that this album contains all the things you loved about Phosphorescent prior to To Willie, but with lots of new tricks learned during the recording of that tribute to Willie Nelson. This is most apparent on “Hej, Me I’m Light,” a laconic tune that feels like an outtake from Pride.
And how to do you close such an amazing piece of work? With a nearly nine minute song called Los Angeles that harkens alt-country classics of yesteryear. A song with total beauty in its texture. A song that, at its conclusion, will find you hitting the repeat button on one of 2010′s finest releases.