Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips

Martinis and Bikinis

Omnivore Recordings

This reissue was up for a Grammy in 1994, but didn’t quite make the cut. I won’t say that was a bad decision; this disc does have some haunting material sung by Ms. Sam Phillips and is worth a spin. Ms. Phillips began as a Christian act, but left her original label over what might be called “creative differences.”

As a secular artist, she’s done well. Her work with T-Bone Burnett is highly respected and highly successful. Phillips’ voice is a bit thin, but she chooses her material carefully and has the best possible arrangers and musicians.

“Baby I Can’t Please You” is a classic lament. Besides the frustration of not getting her man, she’s dealing with a psychedelic sitar and slide guitar. Is the romance really done, or is this all just a bad dream? “Strawberry Roads” looks higher. While still melancholy and plaintive, it takes a practical view: neither of us is ideal and we could both do better, but what’s the point of comparison shopping?

By cut 12, “Wheel of Broken Voice,” you’ve been through enough bad-to-ambiguous romance that you’re ready to join a monastery, and when you hear that killer line “it’s a cup with a hole and the love pours on the ground,” self-mutilation seems inadequate. Yup, it’s country music of the highest order, and whether you anesthetize yourself with beer or slit your wrists, you’ll be equally happy.

Sam Phillips:

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