On First Listen: To Willie


I got Phosphorescent’s wonderful new release To Willie a few weeks ago when it leaked. I can say, after letting this disc sit in for a little while, that it is legitimately great. I’ve been in something of a folk stint lately and this fits in with the best of it. Per a Pitchfork news item from a while ago:

To Willie, Matthew Houck’s full-length follow-up of sorts to 2007’s lovely Pride, finds the songwriter putting his distinct stamp on 11 Nelson originals– and not the obvious ones. Houck reportedly probed deep to come up with his source material and emerged with what the liner notes call “an unabashed musical love letter” and what the press release calls “a glorious hangover of an album.”

As a Willie Nelson cover album, To Willie is noticeably more twangy than Houck’s prior release Pride, which was a delicate piece of understated folk and haunting vocals. But this latest releases has Houck’s style being filled out a bit with electric guitars, stuttering percussion, and accompanying harmonica. And not having heard much Nelson myself–and certainly not the songs Houck covers on this record–they all sound organic and of the Phosphorescent lexicon.

Even though this record has a lot of uptempo tracks, the one’s that really shine are the more traditional Phosphorescent pieces (“Sleep In Your Arms,” “Permanently Lonely,” and “The Party’s Over” specifically). “Sleep In Your Arms” is a tragically gorgeous plead for comfort and “The Party’s Over” is the perfect way to close the record–an album which is expertly mixed, I might add. This is a record, if you are at all interested in folk, Willie Nelson, or indie rock, that you must pick up.

Phosphorescent – “Reasons to Quit” Live


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