With her inimitable style, considerable talent, and producer/husband T-Bone Burnett once again in tow, Sam Phillips adds a fabulous notch to her musical belt with Cruel Inventions. Staying the course toward the lofty goals introduced in her previous releases, Phillips deftly folds her political inclinations into spiritual ruminations of life as she sees it, creating ten original compositions that will please anyone interested in tunes of truth. Phillips' strong suit lies in her outstanding ability to spin clever phrases and wrap her slightly quirky voice around accessible pop melodies -- kind of like the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. From that launching pad, Burnett sets off the sonic experimentation with full force: percussion, drums, and grooves leading the pack. The greatness of Burnett as a producer is found in his timelessness, for even when he colors outside the lines, he doesn't date himself or the product, a craft that allows his records to stand strong through the years. Musically, lyrically, and emotionally, Cruel Inventions is as steady as a stream. Not many records can boast such smooth consistency. A few of the songs, however, do merit special mention. Be sure to take note of the title track, "Lying," "Private Storm," and "Raised on Promises," which was featured in the opening scenes of Ruby in Paradise starring Ashley Judd. With just one listen, fans of artists such as Natalie Merchant, R.E.M., and Elvis Costello will surely find a heroine in Phillips.
AllMusic Review by Kelly McCartney