Sam Phillips - Don’t Do Anything
I have so much respect for artists who simply follow their muse without any concern for record sales or the latest hot trends in the music industry. I consider singer/songwriter Sam Phillips to be one such artist. Her most recent release titled Don’t Do Anything is like a breath of fresh air among all the cookie-cutter, pro-tooled recordings that clutter the current marketplace. This self-produced effort foregoes the modern, ultra-sheen sound and opts for a more earthy, organic approach. In general, the arrangements are sparse and open which brings the focus more toward Phillips’ vocals and the songs themselves. This approach wouldn’t work unless the songwriting is up to the task and fortunately in this case, Phillips delivers the goods.
The album starts out strong with Phillips singing “I thought if he understood, he wouldn’t treat me this way. No explanations..” accompanied by a distorted guitar and a tribal bass drum. It sets the tone for the rest of the album. One may also notice a lack of bass guitar in a number of the songs here. It’s a pretty bold choice especially during sections with full-on drums but again that’s just typical Sam Phillips going against the grain. The standout track for me is the title track, “Don’t Do Anything”. Phillips wrote the track with her ex-husband T-Bone Burnett in mind with lines like “I love you when you don’t do anything…When you’re useless I love you more…”
She’s pretty economical in her choice of words but the way she uses them are pretty profound. The only thing that holds the album back is the limited scope of the sonic palette especially as the album winds down. But other than that, a wonderful record and a great addition to Phillips’ splendid catalog of albums.