Durham, North Carolina, early spring, 2017. A pensive guy slowly strolls down Chapel Hill Road. Lunchtime, trucks horns, tape fixed windows. He mumbles something under his breath, pitching some low key notes, chin to the sidewalk, black long hair brushing against his Greyhound flavored leather jacket. Flatten boots, hands in his pockets, cheap fries stink up his nostrils and his heart stuck in between a one piece band on tour and a man in love five thousands miles far from his woman.
He’s Phill Reynolds, he’s blue and he’s not aware of his new album already taking roots into his chest.
A Sudden Nowhere is the last studio effort of this rambling today’s troubadour. “Traveling has always been my main inspiration, the core of my composing approach,” says Phill, “ so when we got motionless and confined in our places I haven’t been able to outline a single verse. My guitars got covered in dust and neglected for weeks. Frustrating, and painful indeed.”
Luckily enough, from the panes of his kitchen Phill could rest his glance on those gentle hills rolling lazily towards Venice and cautiously bloom some kind of peace. “ I couldn’t perform neither I could strum a hell of a chord on my couch but hey, finally I could actually listen” admits the Italian songwriter, gladly used since years to the demanding average of a dozen gigs per month. And counting.
So the fine finger style guitarist had the proper time to recollect all those stems, licks and lines scattered and set aside since his last official work, the split album Pairs ( released by The Epiphysis Foundation ) co-written and promoted all around Europe and the East Coast with his good friend Matthew Paul Butler in 2017.
“I refused to set this pandemic as the backbone of my upcoming album, even if it is slightly hinted by the title itself ” states Phill, “but surely it added to some of the songs a darker, misty yet intimate shade ”. This layer of human absence and lack of warmth can be tracked down into A Pain I Need, an obscure and carnal ballad about self destructive relationships addictions, as into the lonely, wine missing female character skimmed by a new born pale hope in Please Go On. Not to mention one of the three instrumental tracks of A Sudden Nowhere, the clockwork black waltz To Agota, which is “a no return stairway down into what I imagine Agota Kristof’s mind could have been, ” confesses the composer.
Despite those deep dives into darkness, Phill let a certain amount of quietness and light ( and - why not - lightness as well ) be prominent too, even adding an electro allure to the shoegazing positive anthem You’ll Be Fine as spicing up the groovy and languorous summer vibe of Time Is Now with a smokin’ hot saxophone solo. Sounds and arrangements which gently differs from the americana / folk drenched landscapes of Love And Rage, Phill’s previous album ( Locomotiv Records ) released almost six years ago. “ This time I didn’t strain the production to maintain the same attitude, the same direction: I needed and obtained more freedom, multiple tastes, flipping some concerns and self induced restrictions off ” goes the artist, yet still devoted to his archetypes as one can notice following the case of the voice-and-guitar murder tale They Call Him Rocknroll. “I challenged myself trying to depict the disastrous failure of an American family as if Philip Roth wrote a song to be performed by Pete Seeger or Phill Ochs!” ) or the first single itself, Is It Painful, at Phill Reynolds’ instant classic.
More than five hundred gigs after his delta blues oriented debut in 2012, the gipsy crooner modified not only his language but his topics as well. The sharp protest or the desperate rant grew up, flourishing into a more intimate, articulate and narrative environment. Broken glasses turned into mirrors, frequently exclamation marks ended up being questions, social issues often became personal issues as they brutally melt into the unexpected Officer, nearly a 90’s smelling r’n’b manifestly inspired by the killing of George Floyd.
All songs written, played in each stam and sung by Phill Reynolds
Marion Moroder (tracks 1, 3 & 8)
Laura Campana (tracks 3, 5 & 6)
Double Bass: Marco Stagni (tracks 5 & 10)
Violin, saw: Elisa Dal Bianco (track 10)
Hulusi: Giuseppe Dal Bianco (track 10)
Saxophone: Massimiliano Dosoli (track 3)
"Nancy" belongs to Leonard Cohen. All rights reserved.
Performed live at CSC, San Vito di Leguzzano by Francesca Amati (voice) and Phill Reynolds (guitar and backing vocals)
Tracks 1, 3, 7, 8 & 9 recorded at Happenstance Records by Marco Degli Esposti
Tracks 2, 4, 5, 6 & 10 recorded at Beat Studios by Andrea Polato
All tracks mixed by Marco Degli Esposti
Mastered at La Distilleria by Maurizio Baggio
Photo: Simone Carollo
Artwork: Vittoria Cavedon