It’s been 11 years since Northwest Jersey singer-songwriter Kathy Phillips’ last LP, but she has returned with the philosophical fun of “Soul Catcher.”
Has it really been 16 years since Kathy Phillips’ brilliant debut album, “Sway?” Wow, that time flew! I remember like it was yesterday giving her the Makin Waves Awards for Best Female Artist and Song of the Year for “Leaves Changing.”
With her long-awaited third LP, “Soul Catcher,” Phillips switches gears by sprinkling some Beatlesque pop onto her jazz-folk garden. She also has changed producers. Having teamed with Black Potatoe Records owner Matt Angus on her debut and the 2006 follow-up, “Carries You Away,” she now is produced by her longtime guitarist Walt Bibinger, who also co-wrote all 16 songs on “Soul Catcher.”
Walt cohesively melds their varied styles, including country gospel, but with a little more self-editing, they would have made this good record into a great one. I realize that to a songwriter, songs are like children and that it’s difficult to choose one over the other, but at the end of the day, the artist has to cut the cord and do what’s best for the art. At a much more manageable 12 tracks, “Soul Catcher” would have been a better and more impactful record, which I believe Phillips and Bibinger intended, given the wisdom about quality living that they share throughout. Maybe it’s a salute to the number of years since Phillips’ debut, but 16 songs is an awful lot to ask of a listener.
At least things start off great with the Brian Wilson/Phil Spector-inspired “Forever with You.” Also every bit as good as anything on “Sway” are the tongue-in-cheek country gospel of “Truth,” the “Hey Bulldog”-derived wisdom of “Live, Laugh, Love,” the vocally rich folk-rock of the heartbreaking yet reassuring “Better Days,” the dream-affirming funk-pop of “You’ll See,” the sassy jazz of “My Heart to You,” and the epic closer “Set Me Free,” especially the Santana-sounding bridge. I particularly love the sincere fun of “Truth,” which contemplates “a truth you can’t drink away,” and “Better Days,” which sounds like Alison Kraus and Union Station sitting in with the Grateful Dead.
Unfortunately, there are a handful of songs that don’t deserve to be on “Soul Catcher,” such as the cliché-ridden “Life’s Song,” the insipid “What’s Your Dream” and the sing-song saccharine of “What to Do.” I believe “Life’s Song” could have been great, especially with those luscious pop harmonies behind Phillips’ sweet Natalie Merchant-like vocal, but her lyrics are a mixed bag of wise and trite. Like nearly all of this record, the song has an extremely positive message for which Phillips and Bibinger should be applauded, but there is a fine line between uplifting and corny, and “Life’s Song” waivers.
The same could be said for “Now,” a Roy Orbison-inspired number that is vocally rich but too repetitive to be completely rewarding. I must say, however, that throughout “Soul Catcher,” Bibinger captures gorgeous, delicious Beatlesque backing vocals by him, Phillips and their longtime band mate, Kim Williams, whose rich talent also can be heard on the record’s keyboards.
Phillips doesn’t have much time to play out with her original material because she frequently appears as Stevie Nicks in the popular Fleetwood Mac tribute band Tusk, which also features Williams in the role of Christine McVee. Find out more at http://fleetwoodmactribute.com/TUSK.
State Theatre Presents Diana Krall: Turn Up the Quiet Tour (NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Diana Krall live in concert as part of her Turn Up The Quiet World Tour on Friday, October 12 at 8:00pm. Tickets range from $43-$153.50. This concert will feature songs from Diana Krall’s stunning new album, Turn Up The Quiet, out now on Verve Records as well as a mix of some fan favorites. Kean Stage Presents The Manhattan Transfer (UNION, NJ) -- Going strong after more than 45 years, Grammy Award winner The Manhattan Transfer, with tenor vocals from Kean University alumnus Alan Paul '71, will captivate Kean Stage audiences with their distinctive four-part harmonies at Enlow Recital Hall on Sunday, September 30 at 3:00pm.3rd Annual North Jersey Indie Rock Festival (JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- The North Jersey Indie Rock Festival returns to Jersey City on October 6. Presented by Mint 400 Records and Sniffling Indie Kids, the festival includes acts from those labels and Little Dickman Records, Rhyme and Reason Records, and State Champion Records. The festival takes place at White Eagle Hall. Doors are at 4:00pm and the music starts at 4:30pm. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.Bobby McFerrin To Kick Off the 125th Season Of Princeton University Concerts (PRINCETON, NJ) -- On Friday, September 21, 2018 at 7:30pm, 10-time GRAMMY award-winning artist Bobby McFerrin launches Princeton University Concerts’ (“PUC”) 125th Anniversary Season in a special event performance at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall. The concert will feature McFerrin alongside members of his a cappella group Gimme5 in a program titled “ Circlesongs ” -- an evening of spontaneous music-making through shared improvised sound, in a language growing out of tribal chant and sacred music. The Dryden Ensemble Presents Bach Cantata Fest (PRINCETON, NJ) -- The Dryden Ensemble will present a Bach Cantata Fest on Saturday, October 20 at 7:30pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 6587 Upper York Road, Solebury, Pennsylvania, and on Sunday, October 21 at 3:00pm at Miller Chapel, located on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary, 64 Mercer Street, Princeton, New Jersey. Tickets are $25 for general admission and free to students with an ID. They may be purchased at the door or online at www.drydenensemble.org.
“Here’s Lucie!” Lucie Arnaz LIVE! at the PNC Bank Arts Center Even though the weather outside Holmdel, NJ’s PNC Bank Arts Center is cloudy with some light intermittent drizzle this Wednesday, September 12, 2018 afternoon, the venue’s stage is still shining brightly with talent thanks to a live performance by television, film, and stage actress/singer Lucie Arnaz!Mike Aiken Talks About Aiken & Friends Fest, North Branch At RVCC (BRANCHBURG, NJ) -- Raritan Valley Community College presents Aiken & Friends Fest, North Branch on Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22. The three-day event will feature a number of different musical shows by Mike Aiken, as well as other solo artists and groups. Virtuoso Jazz Violinist Jean-Luc Ponty LIVE! at the Newton Theatre It’s a warm but lovely Aug. 23, 2018 evening here in Newton, NJ. After enjoying some hand-dipped Cliff’s ice cream from the window at Hayek Market, we march up Spring Street looking forward to hearing some world-class jazz at one of the Garden State’s favorite concert venues, The Newton Theatre.An Interview with Bernie Williams Four-time World Series Champion and Latin Grammy-Nominated guitarist and composer Bernie Williams will perform with his All-Star Band at the Jersey Shore this Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 at The Grunin Center of the Arts in Toms River, NJ!“Unleash the Love” The Beach Boys LIVE! at The Great Auditorium So what were you doing at 8:18 pm on 8/18/18?
Well, we’re not sure what you were up to, but we know that on that hot August night, we were listening to “America’s Band” — The Beach Boys — and watching them “Unleash the Love” while performing their incredible catalog of hits at Ocean Grove NJ’s Great Auditorium!