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Grant Lee Phillips
VIRGINIA CREEPER
(ZoŽ/Rounder)
Stars graphics

It might be tempting for Grant Lee Phillips to take a step back, what with the re-releases late last year of albums by his first band, Shiva Burlesque, and a Grant Lee Buffalo compilation on the way. But Virginia Creeper is a step forward, minus the electronic treatments that embellished Phillipsís previous solo album, 2001ís Mobilize (Rounder). He makes strides here by perfecting what he does very well, crafting inviting melodies and warm acoustic ballads into near-perfect three-minute slices.

Thereís nothing too fancy on the album, none of the feedback guitar heroics or overwrought shouting that marked Grant Lee Buffalo ó just a more fully realized acoustic sound full of bubbling banjos and mandolins, languid violins and dobros, and sepia-toned imagery. Phillips has a penchant for evocative if sometimes inscrutable love odes to historical figures. "Josephine of the Swamps" fills that bill, but "Mona Lisa" and "Lily-A-Passion" are surprisingly straightforward and sweet. He rounds out his mythology with an earnest cover of Gram Parsonsís "Hickory Wind," which is as indicative of the sound of this album as anything he penned himself. Even when he does allow himself a morose moment, itís still something you can hum along with.

(Grant Lee Phillips plays T.T. the Bearís Place, 10 Brookline Street in Central Square, this Tuesday, March 2, with Jake Brennan; call 617-492-BEAR.)

BY NICK A. ZAINO III


Issue Date: February 27 - March 4, 2004
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