Phillips’ albums are thematic the way pieces of fine art are; unique and often beautiful, but not immediately coherent or comprehensible. She is charmingly eccentric, using abstraction as a paintbrush, leaving plenty of room for interpretation, but strangely, never alienating.
Written entirely by Phillips, the songs that find themselves on Don’t Do Anything, were borne out of performances with her touring band, consisting of Eric Gorfain and Jay Bellerose. After touring, the group recorded these wonderful songs in an attempt by Phillips “…to make something lighter.”
For the first time in her professional songwriting career, Phillips also produced the record, an accomplishment worth noting, as long-time producer, collaborator and former husband, T-Bone Burnett, seemed to by synonymous with Phillips’ music. And while he may always maintain significance in Phillips’ life, Don’t Do Anything is distinctly a Sam Phillips record.
Highlights are plentiful – ‘Can’t Come Down’ seems like a remnant from the near-perfect, A Boot And A Shoe, utilizing a strong guitar and drum combination as Phillips declares: “I can’t come down for the shame and fear / Can’t come down ’cause I can see from here / I’ve got a great work to do and I can’t come down.”
‘Another Song’ and the album’s title track, ‘Don’t Do Anything,’ are perfectly placed side-by-side, barely a gap between the two as to sound like one seamless track. And how perfect too; ‘Another Song’ opens with her Dictaphone, and then her piano with Phillips asking poignantly, ‘Did you ever love me?’. At its final breath, the electric strumming and thumping of the title track comes through, with Phillips singing, “I love you when you don’t do anything.”
‘Little Plastic Life’ begins with a simplistic, but robust and satisfying percussion of drums, guitar and violin before jumping into an incredibly infectious chorus.
‘Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us,’ a song written by Sam Phillips and previously recorded by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant for their 2007 album, Raising Sand, was inspired by gospel singer, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Like, ‘Can’t Come Down,’ it too sounds a song that could’ve lived on Phillips’ A Boot And A Shoe.
Don’t Do Anything builds upon the traits that made Phillips’ two preceeding albums so wonderful, but adds an extra layer of depth and instrumentation. Here, Phillips has effortlessly pulled the best pieces of all of her previous albums into one complete experience.
Sam Phillips’ Don’t Do Anything is due for release on June 3, 2008.