Sam Phillips

A Boot and a Shoe

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Sam Phillips took a deliberate detour from the sparkly neo-psychedelic pop of her best-known work on her 2001 album, Fan Dance, which stripped her songs and their accompaniment to their bare framework and reveled in the beauty that lay within. Phillips and her producer and collaborator, T-Bone Burnett, have followed much the same course with 2004's A Boot and a Shoe, which in many ways sounds like Fan Dance, Pt. 2; featuring a number of the same musicians (including guitarist Marc Ribot and percussionists Carla Azar and Jim Keltner) A Boot and a Shoe was recorded and mixed in the same spare, open manner, reveling in the acoustics of the rooms and the subtle creaks of aging instruments. However, while there was something deep and meditative in the quiet spaces of Fan Dance, the 2004 release tends to put a somewhat lighter and more playful spin on the same themes. While the gravity of Phillips' take on matters both spiritual ("Hole in My Pocket") and personal ("If I Could Write") hasn't changed, A Boot and a Shoe has a bit more of a spring in its step, especially in the subtle sensuality of "Red Silk 5," the easygoing sway of "Drawman," and the torchy undercurrents of "How to Quit." What sounded austere on Fan Dance sounds simple on A Boot and a Shoe, and it's the differing inferences of those two adjectives that makes all the difference. It goes without saying that Phillips' vocals are both unaffected and lovely, and that the subtle, literate confessionalism of her songs is a thinking person's delight, as always. What made Fan Dance different is how Phillips proved her songs could work just as well without the sonic gingerbread of Martinis & Bikinis and Omnipop, and A Boot and a Shoe shows that she can achieve a broad and lively palette in the most modest of musical circumstances.

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