Tiny Notes Big Ol World
John Phillips' first album ranges from splendidly kooky to intimate and meaningful. His music and lyrics have a modern folk feel, with hints of Randy Newman, Steve Goodman and even Elvis Costello (if, say, he were to have a good mood). There's 'Got to Marry Oprah,' a tribute to her checkbook, and 'I Wanna Buy You Shoes,' about the hapless guy who takes a relationship one step too far. Several songs stir memories and notions of home, including 'Flexible Flyer,' a fun ode to the sled, and 'Thanking You Still,' an uplifting piece Phillips wrote about his mother. And some of his best lyrics come on songs like 'Destiny Waltz' and 'How Did I Fall for You?' that celebrate the search for real, grown-up love. This is a musician's CD, with tight, smart arrangements played beautifully by Phillips, a fine guitarist, and a group of Arizona musicians on keyboards, percussion, mandolin, harmony vocals and (wonderfully used) fiddle and cello. The tunes are actually pretty complex but the CD has an effortless feel, with songs that are precise, confident, unhurried and uncluttered. It's music that makes sense and is loads of fun to hear.