GRANT-LEE PHILLIPS Ladies' Love Oracle (Zoe/Rounder) Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Recorded over three reclusive days in 1999, Ladies' Love Oracle has a surprising stylistic variety. Grant Lee Buffalo mainman Phillips pulls off a set of masterful, mostly one-man basement recordings. It doesn't have the staticky claustrophobic feel of your typical rec room record. These are songs for nursing a hangover, with a hushed wood-panelled intimacy. Phillips's voice wraps itself around sepia-toned dream narratives with the intense urgency of the Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli, without Dulli's creepy vibe. His melancholy harmonica wavers through hobo-weary travelogues, and a lonely acoustic strum ties the tracks together. Phillips even out-Rufuses Monsieur Wainwright with the wistfully fey cabaret sway of Don't Look Down. Understated, intelligent and powerful.