Sometimes at the strangest moments you think of calling someone you used to love. Everything is stacked against you--you live thousands of miles away, you've heard they've gotten married, and even though it's been years, your bad breakup has probably not been smoothed over by time--yet you still flirt with making that call. But whether you do it or not isn't really the point here; the point is sometimes you think that, in spite of whatever past tyranny tore you apart, it can still work out for no other reason than because there's something heroic about appearing suddenly through all that distance, showing up out of nowhere well armed for a second chance. It's a strange and unreasonable place to be; a terrible and restless emotional location which makes you think that anything is possible, even when there's no f***ing way it is. This feeling can come from anywhere, but music is one of the most powerful triggers that can activate this kind of dormant but passionate resolve. In other words, there's nothing better than a pop song. After all, what else can make you feel like you're going to live forever and die someday at the same time? So you hit repeat and you learn the swell of the song, the infectious verses and the soaring choruses and you memorize the thrill it gives you by listening to it over and over again. It's a great way to blow an evening. And whether it's' sneaky or bombastic when a perfect chorus rises from your stereo in a forty foot sonic wave, it makes you want to take it to the end. But every surfer will tell you that no matter how high the waves are, you can't live there; the ocean has a whole lot more for you, but you have to keep coming back to get it. And that's how it is with Philip Stevenson's Dago Red--it's the kind of album that keeps you coming back. You might not know about Philip Stevenson, so here's a quick primer: He's from D.C.; he used to sing for Carnival Of Souls and the equally terrific Quinine; he was once label- mates with Beck; and he loves old Blues records. That's it. Did he ever date a supermodel? Did he make an appearance in a Hollywood blockbuster? Did he go to the Grammy's? Well, you'll have to ask him about things like that--all that can be spoken of now is the music. And what music it is. Dago Red is an intimate collection of thirteen original tracks that are mostly quiet and introspective and come across as battered hymns, elegies for the bruised and broken- hearted. One after the other, the songs play with the kind of wistful grace that will make it almost impossible for you to pick which one will go on your next mix CD. Whether it's the rueful meditation of 'Liar,' the jazzy shadowboxing of 'Wallflower,' or the whispering regret of 'Most Of All,' the songs on Dago Red illuminate a singular beauty--the lone light of a stereo, the turning away of someone in the dark, the texture of paint on a canvas. Although the narrators of each composition have separate concerns, they are unified by the sentiment found in 'As beautiful' whose speaker admits 'Everyone needs someone's face to illuminate them.' Even with it's gentle rhythms Dago Red is tough and tender and Stevenson's voice will no doubt have you making comparisons, and that's fine, but because he loves the Blues so much, Big Bill Broonzy is liable to get a more favorable response than Paul Westerberg, but that's up to you. Give it a shot. See what he says. Maybe he'll agree, maybe he won't, but you should know that Stevenson has a good sense of humor, so don't expect violence. You should also know that he's self-deprecating (with his old bands he put out brilliant albums called Flop and Regrets Only); he's heavily ironic (check out the delicious 'Little Bird') and his e-mails are self-effacing and thoughtful. That's really all that can be said right now. There's so much about Stevenson that can be talked about, but in light of the limits of space, let's just leave you with the record you're holding. Forgive the clumsy paraphrase, but Sir Alec Guinness once said that in a good performance you can see the actor, but in a great performance you see yourself. So put on Dago Red and get ready to take a long look. Alex Green Discoveries Magazine, Summer, 2004 'WHAT DOES IT MATTER WHAT YOU SAY ABOUT PEOPLE?' - Marlene Dietrich in 'Touch of Evil' Philip stevenson is a songwriter born in Washington dc. He fronted the (insert adjective here) carnival of souls during their meteoric rise to obscurity in the early 90's before moving to new orleans and Los Angeles on bmg's dime. Now, back home in his unkempt, 8 track, circa 1967 studio, he spends his time producing records for other artists and writing hundreds of songs. Here are a few. Play them for your friends, damn them with faint praise or enjoy them in whatever manner you see fit. Disclaimer: It's your mind and we can't possibly be responsible for how it apprehends information, aesthetic or otherwise. Now get offline and go read a book or something.