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Boomkat Product Review:
A response to Willie Nelson's album of Lefty Frizzell covers, To Lefty From Willie, this latest album by Matthew Houck's Phosphorescent in turn pays tribute to the Red Headed Stranger's own songbook, taking on bonafide country classics like 'Can I Sleep In Your Arms', 'Heartaches Of A Fool' and 'Reasons To Quit'. The latter starts the album off, featuring Houck in his customarily frail Will Oldham-esque voice. Phosphorescent's most recent album of original compositions (2007's Pride) was a largely overlooked miniature masterpiece, stylistically very much in the same vein as Bon Iver's infinitely more popular For Emma, Forever Ago, and it'd be nice to think that somewhere down the line Houck will get that sort of recognition. A covers album is bound to delay any big career payoff though, and this album is more a labour of love than it is a capitalisation on whatever momentum he achieved from Pride. The trad country feel of the originals is steadfastly preserved in these faithful reproductions (that said, the ethereal synth arrangement of 'Permanently Lonely' uses some creative license), but the tales of hard-drinking and hitting rock bottom are leant a very modern poignance by Houck's dishevelled, down-trodden delivery. This heightened air of melancholy seems all the more powerful on the stunning choral interpretation of 'Can I Sleep In Your Arms', which comes closest to the spiritual, disembodied sounds of the recent Phosphorescent material. Proving that country music is the true soundtrack to emotional pain, 'The Last Thing I Needed (First Thing This Morning)' is a startlingly lovely ode to heartbreak, and perfectly demonstrates Houck's aptitude for tackling the Willie Nelson catalogue. Not wanting to leave on too downbeat a moment, the album rounds off on 'The Party's Over', a perfect parting shot, full of weary, inebriated charm that typifies the feel of this fine album.