Alt Country Tab — Still Night

by Carl Anders June 2004

 

Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of five stars) A title can say a lot about an album, Still Night is one of those records. Listening to this you can take the title to mean two things. A still evening, on your own contemplating a broken heart and the process of getting over it, or going through the same process of thought for what seems like days and realizing that it’s still night.

Chicago based Zach Phillips recorded this, his second album in his own basement studio. Something that would ordinarily result in a low-fi acoustic affair, the result is something far more eclectic. Owing much to Zach’s impressive baritone voice, this is probably the most soulful record of this genre I’ve had the pleasure of encountering for some time.

The album starts out strongly with the superb Cry Like I Do, and yes it’s obvious again the theme for the song and the album, but sometimes new things can be added or blended to create a unique style. All the songs on this album take several unexpected twists and turns with the music, just at the point when you think you’re on familiar ground. Cry Like I Do has this aplenty. Whether it be the chords suddenly changing direction, or even a swift change in vocals from Phillips, it’s the sort of thing that prevents this being the 3 am album it sets out to be. Basically, it requires your attention, but that’s not a criticism.

One of the closest frames of reference for the album would probably be Pneumonia era Whiskeytown, and this is no more apparent than on...wait for it...I Wanna Know Why. Not only does it sound similar to Don’t Wanna Know Why, but has a similar theme, except obviously in this case the narrator does want to know why. But I’ll have to admit that as far as drawing easy comparisons, that’s about it.

Phillips has managed to get the balance right on the record, not too much in the way of moping around and not just the right amount of unexpected twists and turns within the songs so that they don’t start to get unlistenable. Though towards the end the 3 am effect may start to kick in and the last third is probably less rememberable than the first 2 that preceded it, the record won't be out of place in your record collection.

It’s an album about heartbreak, that finds the heart mended at the end. It’s a folk album that’s soulful. It’s a 3 am album to fall asleep to that requires your full attention. Like the songs with their twists and turns, it’s a paradox, but like all good paradoxes it’ll have you coming back to ponder it over and over.