Shawn Phillips is one of most fascinating and enigmatic musicians to comeout of the early '70s singer-songwriter boom. The mere fact that he was a musician as much as a singer and songwriter made him stand out, and helped him attract a dedicated following. His refusal to shape his music -- which crosses between folk-rock, jazz, progressive, pop, and classical -- to anyone else's expectations has allowed him to hold onto a large and dedicated cult following.
Shawn Phillips is one of most fascinating and enigmatic musicians to come out of the early-'70s singer/songwriter boom. The mere fact that he is a virtuoso musician as much as a singer and songwriter allowed him to stand out and attract a dedicated following. His refusal to pigeonhole his music -- which seamlessly melds folk, rock, jazz, funk, progressive, pop, electro, classical, and global folk traditions -- to meet anyone else's expectations allowed him to retain his cult following without ever achieving the stardom that his talent seemed to merit.
Though Phillips began recording for Columbia in the mid-'60s (and worked on Donovan's records from the period), it was his virtually unclassifiable run of ten '70s LPs for A&M -- including Contribution, Second Contribution, Faces, Bright White, and Spaced -- that established his reputation for boundless, nearly peerless creativity and virtuosity. Phillips was a musical shapeshifter. His work as a virtuoso 12-string guitarist combined with his four-octave vocal range fascinated and confounded some critics, but resonated with listeners. Phillips has always been able to get exactly what he needed from virtually any instrument he played and from his recordings and on-stage collaborators.
After relocating to Italy and lying low during most of the '80s and '90s -- he toured, wrote, and worked with musicians outside his native United States before transplanting to post-Apartheid South Africa, he resumed recording in earnest during the middle of the 21st century's first decade, sounding as if he had never left.