“With deft, powerful strokes, the singer-songwriter chisels emotions, impressions, yearnings and regrets…” —Los Angeles Times
“(Don’t Do Anything) is striking for its uncharacteristically dissonant sonic touches. The distorted guitars and crashing cymbals contrast intriguingly with (Phillips’) fragile, vulnerable vocals, yet they also fit with her lyrics’ emotional turmoil...(a) set of stormy, heartaching songs.”—Performing Songwriter
1 April 2008 — Nonesuch Records releases singer/songwriter/guitarist Sam Phillips’ new album, Don’t Do Anything, on June 3, 2008. The record’s twelve songs were written by Phillips, who also served as the album’s producer—a first for her. In addition to her critically acclaimed records, Phillips has contributed music to a number of major films and television shows, including the popular WB/CW show Gilmore Girls.
After recording and performing music from her first two Nonesuch albums, Fan Dance (2001) and A Boot and a Shoe (2004), Phillips said: “I realized I wanted to make something lighter, so I began to collaborate with the musicians I’d been touring with, violinist and guitarist Eric Gorfain and drummer Jay Bellerose. On the road, we’d become a band. So we went into the studio and did this album as a collaboration, and that’s how Don’t Do Anything came to be.”
In addition to Phillips on vocals, piano, and electric and acoustic guitar; Gorfain on acoustic and electric violin, piano, banjo, dancing molecules, Stroh violin, electric mandolin, and electric and baritone guitar; and Bellerose on drums, Don’t Do Anything features The Section Quartet (violinists Gorfain and Daphne Chen, violist Leah Katz, and cellist Richard Dodd), bassists Paul Bryan and Jennifer Condos, and pump organist Patrick Warren.
The album takes its title from Phillips’ song “Don’t Do Anything,” which starts with the lines: “I love you when you don’t do anything / When you’re useless I love you more.” The songwriter calls that “a subversive concept to put out into a world that is very performance-oriented, where we’re programmed as to what our goals should be. I was thinking about all the men that I love in my life…I watch them try to achieve so much and they just need to hear it. We all need to hear it.”
Another song from Don’t Do Anything, “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us,” also is featured on Robert Plant and Allison Krauss’ recent release, Raising Sand. The Observer (UK) called the song “poetic,” and The Boston Globe says, “The austere ‘Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us’…at times feels like a raga and at times like circus music from a Wes Anderson movie.” The Dallas Morning News calls the song “a percussive, slightly tribal gem that seeps into your consciousness.”
For the first time, Phillips produced her own record, with the help of Gorfain and engineer Mike Piersante. (T Bone Burnett produced her previous eight albums.) “T Bone and I had done so many records together and he said, ‘Well, if you don’t know how to make records by now…’ And it’s true. I do know when something feels right. It’s time for me to produce my own records. It’s time for me to take the reins and go it alone,” she says.