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Virginia Creeper

Grant-Lee Phillips

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Album Review

Grant Lee Phillips has scaled back the arrangements of his songs a great deal on Virginia Creeper, his third solo outing, and the starkness helps spotlight his remarkable singing voice, which sounds at times like John Lennon, sometimes like Michael Stipe, and increasingly a little like Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen. Like Springsteen, Phillips centers his songwriting in a kind of mythic America, an approach he used as well in his former band, Grant Lee Buffalo. But it is an approach that works only if the songs and the characters in them are believable, and Phillips' carefully considered, ornate lyrics often work against that believability. It's an old artistic dilemma — finding a way to combine complexity and simplicity in a single stroke, and it took Springsteen a while to find that balance, too. The starkness of the sound on Virginia Creeper definitely moves Phillips closer to that aim, and there are some striking songs here that have a lean, powerful ambiance, most notably "Calamity Jane," which appears to be a song about Jane Fonda, and the epic "Josephine of the Swamps," a tune with overreaching lyrics that is just so damn good, it pulls you in anyway. Songs like these are the reason Phillips' fans are going to love this album. The poet Robinson Jeffers once said it was hard to set fire to too much thought. We wouldn't want Grant Lee Phillips to think less, but sometimes its best to not show it, to strip back some of the artifice and let the listener do the work. It's a balancing act that is within Phillips' grasp, and Virginia Creeper moves him closer.

Customer Reviews

Virrginia Creeper

Am I too old to find stuff like this? Greatest CD I've bought since Blue Rodeo in 1995. World class songwriter. If it's country, folk or americana you're after, this is a good place to start. There is still hope for music today. I really didn't like his Grant Lee Buffalo stuff, but this, Wow! No weak songs in the bunch. Try Mona Lisa & Hickory Wind. If you like a good story, try Susanna Little. Can't wait for the next CD. Is todays country really country? Where's the country rock? Look here for answers.

Peerless talent on display

I loved Grant Lee Buffalo, but the first two solo albums by GLP didn't quite register. This one is the stuff. Great little stories, full of portent and meaning, and the music and singing are simply great. He is an enormous talent. If you have never heard him before, start here and work back - you won't be disappointed.

It's the town troubador!

I LOVE Gilmore Girls, and I always liked the town troubador, the guy who stood around town with his guitar and sang. But I never knew he had an album! This is good stuff! I recognize some of the songs from the show!


Born: September 1, 1963 in Stockton, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

After spending his formative years in Stockton, CA, Grant-Lee Phillips headed to Los Angeles to study film. Finding himself beneath the spell cast by local bands like the Rain Parade and the Dream Syndicate, Phillips soon partnered with Stockton acquaintance Jeff Clark to form Shiva Burlesque. The band dissolved after two critically acclaimed records, and Phillips began writing and demoing under the Grant Lee Buffalo alias. Following several solo performances,...
Full Bio
Virginia Creeper, Grant-Lee Phillips
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Customer Ratings