QUOTE(frannyglass @ May 6 2004, 12:53 PM)
yikes. where did you hear that, Matt?
I'd like to think it's just a rumor, but here's where I'm getting my thoughts:
1) On the Sam Phillips message board/discussion group at MSN, someone posted the following, after much speculation about Sam & T Bone's marital status:
"Finally, I couldn't hold out any longer. I had to ask. It may have been rude, but she was so personable it just felt right. Here is exactly how the conversation went:
Me: So, can I ask the question? (she smiled and nodded). Are you and T-Bone split up?
Sam: (she delayed for a second and then smiled) We are for now.
Me: For now? I guess that means you arent accepting applications for marriage proposals? (Sam bent over laughing)
Sam: Well, we did file, but Im not sure where it is going from here.
She mentioned how she couldnt imagine them not staying friends and co-workers. She also said that he is in the studio creating his own CD finally and that if I didnt have his self titled CD/album I should go find it because it is amazing. We talked a bit about divorce and such and then wished each other well. And the evening was over. I know, I cant believe I asked her. And I cant believe I sort of proposed too. ? But it was so much fun getting her to laugh that hard."
And then there is the album itself, which is a devastating look at the demise of love and marriage... Here's what Jeffrey Overstreet had to say about it. This is a great review, but it's LOOONG... Read on if you're a fan and interested. He's a great writer/reviewer. You should check out the Arts & Faith Community at www.artsandfaith.com.
"A Boot and a Shoe" has broken my heart. I have listened to it once and cannot bring myself to listen to it again... not for a while.
The very last words sung on the album... not the last words on the lyric sheet, but the last words sung... sum up the album as a whole. You'll have to arrive there on your own; I won't say what it is here.
I sat and wept as the album came to a close. Sam's music affects me deeply every time I hear it... Something about her voice and writing gets to me more than anyone I've ever listened to... and consistently, for almost twenty years.
I had heard this was a more "playful" album. And I suppose in some ways that's true... Where Fan Dance was an album heavy with acoustic guitar, this album is her most percussive endeavor. The drums are quirky, unpredictable, and dominant.
But this is NOT 'part two of 'Fan Dance'' as I had heard. It is a focused, subtle, piercing expression of grief and loss at the distintegration of a relationship due to the forces of human desire and change. It is, in essence, about the collapse of a marriage. It has taken me back almost ten years to the most painful hours of my own life in a way that only poetry can, and yet it affirms things in the midst of that anguish with such eloquence and beauty and honesty that I realize I still have much to learn.
I am not going to spend time speculating about Sam herself, as her personal life is her own business. She'll have plenty of speculating journalists to contend with. But I cannot help but deal with what the songs reveal about The Singer... whether that is a character entirely concocted by Sam or if it is all about Sam herself (and how could there not be some overlap?)
The Singer again and again addresses dealing with the loss... the departure of... the one she loves. This "other" has been drawn to someone else, through desire, and the implication is that this is not the first time it has happened. She addresses him about the origins of desire, and how "girls [go] looking for themselves in your eyes." (The Singer seems to be speaking from experience, thinking back on her young and naive and vulnerable time, wryly confessing about the time when was as she was swept away by her famous Muse. Again, I have to fight not to get specific in my speculation about what events these lines are referring to.) But while the lyrics are as honest as acid, as direct as surgery, they are also humble, wise beyond years. She's teetering on the edge between a chasm of despair and the wings that might carry her off "the edge of the world" (as she called it in her last album.) For me, the most frightening moment of the album is when she tells her partner and muse "When I go this time I don't think I'm coming back." There's a lot of ambiguity in just how far she's going to go when she leaves.
I cannot help but get personal when I think back on her career.
For the first time since The Turning, Sam is singing a whole album from a place of brokenness and need. When she released The Turning, she was stripping off the artifice of her Christian-pop career and revealing raw and aching spiritual need. Down, she hit the dirt and called out in a voice as raw as the most desperate psalms. T-Bone Burnett swept her up with all of his charm and talent and prowess, grace granting this honest and misunderstood Christian artist a chance to speak the truth on a much larger stage. At this time, I was waking up to the fakery of Christian music, the limitations, the inability to grapple with real pain, real doubt, real honesty. So as Leslie Phillips "turned" away from singing packaged songs to the choir and entered a phase of more personal and powerful writing, no matter who became uncomfortable, I was going right along, following her lead. (And the lead, of course, of U2, whose Joshua Tree almost seemed to be in dialogue with The Turning in its poetry about breaking away to where the streets have no name.)
When she returned as Sam Phillips with The Indescribable Wow, it was liberation, it was the freedom and exhilaration of singing about human things, human relationships, not the prescribed preach-and-praise of Christian music. She was free and it was a joy. At the same time, thanks to her music and others I had recently discovered, I was beginning to affirm that all subjects are sacred, all beauty is God's, all truth open for discussion.
Cruel Inventions showed her discovering a new confidence, and with that came the release of anger. She was finally ready to be done with "lying" and to speak her mind frankly, even a bit arrogantly. (Others here have pointed out a sense of cynicism and harshness, and I think that's true, but I think it also makes total sense considering her story to that date.) During this time I too was beginning to vent my long repressed anger and frustration about many things: about the walls behind which my church upbringing had kept me, where they had thrown fuel on the fires they had lit in my head and heart, fires of judgmentalism, legalism, self-righteousness, pharasaical Christianity. Now I realized what a monster I had been, and I began rebelling against Christian isolationism, Christian prejudice, Christian separatism.
Martinis and Bikinis was the butterfly emerging from the cocoon. She was unveiled in all her Beatles-esque splendor, a wildly imaginative and professional work of rock and roll, at once her boldest musical adventure and the most eloquent syntheses of what Sam Phillips has to say. It also hinted at the mysticism of the music of her future. I was enthralled. It was all the sonic brilliance of the Beatles without compromising an honesty and commitment to the truth of Spirit that moves in mysterious ways.
Omnipop was strange, twisted, experimental, subversive, and mysterious, like Martinis and Bikinis with a twist of David Lynch. She was moving on already, refusing to simply be the carrier of the Beatles torch, refusing to use her newfound fame to turn out hit singles. The abstract, Rilke-esque "Your Hands" showed that she was still interested in developing as a poet of spiritual longing and the eroticism of dialogue with the Divine. Her references to Thomas Merton paralleled my own immersion in Merton's writing. The mystery of Christ was the center of the world now, and the trappings of confining, over-defining dogma were a memory.
Fan Dance was Sam's move to the monastery of quiet poetry, a spooky minimalist affair about finding her identity in her departure from logic, her departure from dogma, her constant pursuit of the elusive truth, the God who will not be boxed in. "I've tried, I can't find refuge in the angle / I walk the mystery of the curve..." There was an increasing emphasis on the mystery of invisible reality, of the love growing underneath the harsh and angular surfaces of the visible.
But now we've come to the next Turning. The Singer, the character Sam presents to the world, this spiritual searcher has suddenly suffered a traumatic loss. The nature of that loss is private and unexplained, but there are troubling hints... An image inside the front cover of a hand coming out of an ugly darkness holding a bright green apple. This line: "I took your ring that never comes off and put it on / Sorry to lose you, sorry to keep you after you were gone." "My life fell through a hole in my pocket..." Change, desire, unfaithfulness, divorce, whatever you want to call it... she's suddenly alone again, at the edge of the world looking up.
Her brokenness is still a "breaking into faith," a theme that has run through all of her work as both Sam and Leslie. But she also knows God's tendency to bring help "one day late"... after we have lost all that we were clinging to. Resurrection comes not to save us from death, but to raise us out of death. I sincerely hope that we will hear more from Sam as God carries her into the great unknown of the future, but right now, she's singing as if she doesn't want anybody to hear her... quietly mourning.
The story of a whole relationship is here... from the time when a man came and opened up a new world of possibility, growth, and expression ("Open the World") to the bitter end. "You caught me wanting and the shame in my eyes was so inductive..." she sings, "that it magnetized you pulling down my need." Is this a reflection on what drew the Singer and Her Muse together in the first place? This leads to the days when they have nothing left to share: "Making both sides of the conversation / Sometimes, I don't know what to do / Don't start talking inside my head / If you're a dead man then stick to being dead..." "We can't fix what's broken so let's leave it here and walk on..."
And yet, the Singer and the Muse know they need each other in some capacity. They cannot separate entirely. They're still working together.
Listen to the surrender, sadness, honesty, and then the barb at the end of this verse:
We can't fix what's broken, so let's leave it here and walk on
I'll be right behind you.
Love changes everything.
I'm not sorry we loved, but I hope I didn't keep you too long.
We're not experts
We are believers, ministers of silence
Let no man pull us under doubt
I'll always open my hands to you
I'll be right behind you.
In what may indeed be the most beautiful song she's ever sung, "Reflecting Light", Sam illustrates the beauty of brokenness. The opening line "Now that I've worn out, I've worn out the world" is a fantastic line loaded with multiple meanings (the power of that comma!) sung to a sad lilting dance.
Now that I've worn out, I've worn the world
I'm on my knees in fascination
Looking through the night
And the moon's never seen me before
But I'm reflecting light
I rode the pain down, got off and looked up
Looked into your eyes
The loss opened windows all around
My dark heart lit up the skies
Give up the ground under your fet
Hold on to nothing for good
Turn and run at the mean dogs chasing you
Stand alone and misunderstood...
We may not understand, and my tentative speculative endeavors to understand these lyrics may be spectacularly misguided. But the lyrics are so beautiful, spacious, and sung with such sadness and need that they lead me to the place again to which The Turning led me in 1986... to a remembrance of my vulnerability and total dependence upon the mystery of Christ, my rock and my redeemer, when all else is shifting sand ... even those contracts I tend to assume are most binding.