Grant-Lee Phillips

Walking in the Green Corn

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With the release of his seventh solo recording, Walking in the Green Corn, the onetime frontman of the critically acclaimed '90s band Grant Lee Buffalo has been recording on his own longer than he was with his former unit. Beyond simply being another beautifully crafted, elegant, and poignant collection of songs, Phillips imbues this powerful set with songs that speak of his deep discoveries about his Native American heritage. He brings a lot of history to the table. Phillips, a Muskogee, is a registered member of the Creek Native American tribe on his mother's side and a direct descendant of folks who walked the Trail of Tears; on his dad's side, which includes Blackfoot and Cherokee ancestry, he is also related to Chief John Ross. When he sings the eloquent lines "There's only so much I can see/You'll always be a mystery" on the soft and intimate vocal-acoustic guitar tune "Thunderbird," he summarizes the ultimate point of the collection: to dive into the past, possibly to see where ancient myths connect with our emotions and actions in the present day. There's a lot of sharp metaphorical imagery in the titles, from the hypnotic ambient "Great Horned Owl" to the graceful "Buffalo Hearts" and "Black Horses in the Yellow Sky." Most of the pieces are folk-influenced ballads, but the closing title track is a joyous celebration of breaking through the darkness via an understanding of the past. Helping convey the personal nature of this journey is Phillips' decision to forgo his initial band concept and stick mostly to the spontaneous stripped-down home demos he started the project with.

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