Sam Phillips has reinvented herself. Her big star pop persona is gone, replaced by a starkly gothic singer/songwriter with an album that screams to be heard.
Phillips has moved from Virgin Records and its big-time/big-budget productions that propelled her to pop stardom with 1988’s The Indescribable Wow and 1996’s Omnipop. Signed now to the highly respected “art” label Nonesuch, Fan Dance is a comeback album, a change of directions, and perhaps a mid-life crisis all rolled into one.
This album is produced by Phillips’ husband, T-Bone Burnett. But this time, the duo has thrown out the Beatles-style pop orchestrations and replaced it with a sparse style that places Phillips’ passionate lyrics front and center.
Other contributors include avant garde guitarist and banjoist Marc Ribot, American traditionalist Gillian Welch, and a handful of arrangements by Van Dyke Parks. As always, Ribot’s fretwork shines. His jangling sound and off-kilter harmonies run like a vein of barbed wire through the heart of Phillips’ compositions.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.