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Phosphorescent - Muchacho

Mar 22, 2013


If a slew of indie folksters were to storm the Grand Ole Opry and take it hostage, Phosphorescent would be the ringleader.

Athens, Ga., native Matthew Houck is the sole member of Phosphorescent. For years he has toed the line between country and lo-fi indie music — actually, he’s been drawing the line as he goes.

His sixth album, “Muchacho,” favors the latter genre, but includes enough parts pop-rock and alt-country to be enjoyed by the general listening public.

It takes a few turns of “Muchacho” to appreciate the album. Once they become familiar, some sections will find a home in the listener’s subconscious.

The album opens with a three-minute indie rock hymn, “Sun, Arise!” That’s followed by “Song for Zula,” with a sound reminiscent of a “Nebraska”-era Bruce Springsteen and a lyrical nod to Bette Midler and Johnny Cash: “Some say love is a burning thing, and it makes a fiery ring / Oh but I know love as a fading being / just as fickle as a feather in a string.”

Houck meanders through each track like a metaphysical poet with a crush on life and an affinity for textured folk-rock melodies. Heartbreak is unleashed through the city on “Ride On / Right On,” accompanied by hippie-dazed electric strings and a modified chain gang downbeat, as he finishes each line with “I hate you took me right on.” That tension is later released on the harmonious chorus of “A Charm / A Blade,” which acknowledges the darkness behind and foresees light ahead: “There’s a hope, there’s a chain / There’s a lot in the rain … There’s a charm, there’s a blade / There’s a lot in the rain.”

Phosphorescent’s particular brand of alt country is present in the album’s second half. “Muchacho’s Tune” recalls his 2009 tribute album to Willie Nelson, “To Willie.” “See I was slow to understand / This river’s bigger than I am / It’s running faster than I can / Lord, I tried,” he sings over a sparse, open-range tune with a touch of whimsy.

The album ends as it begins, walking along a sunlit path — an offering of inspiration from a seemingly weather-beaten storyteller and one of today’s best singer/songwriters.

“Muchacho,” Phosphorescent, 2013, Dead Oceans.

Ossie Bladine
News-Register

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