Sam Phillips music, to me, embodies everything Paul McCartney poured into making “Eleanor Rigby.” I’ve always thought that, going back to when I first stumbled upon her nearly 20 years ago with her 1994 release of Martinis & Bikinis.
To my ear, there’s always been a loneliness in her voice and her song structures that, when complemented by a string arrangement (as often they are), reminds me of that Beatles classic. I remember thinking way back when that she might be a one-trick pony. I’m happy to say that’s not the case and she’s found a way to make it her signature sound without it wearing thin. Phillips is a critics’ darling and continues to put out tastefully crafted albums, most of which were produced by her now ex-husband T. Bone Burnett.
In October 2009, Phillips offered a year-long subscription, through her website, which delivered to fans five EPs and a full-length album. All were recorded digitally and released during the subscription period.
Solid State: Songs from the Long Play is a collection of 13 songs taken from the 42 made available. Again, it’s all familiar territory for a Sam Phillips fan: sparse production, sometimes only featuring her voice and an acoustic guitar; rich melodies and sadness. Whether or not the songs are actually sad doesn’t matter. Her delivery brings about a somber, reflective mood; one that is oddly enjoyable.