Album Review – Sam Phillips’ “Push Any Button”


Watching Sam Phillips mature and develop over the years is like watching a tween growing up into something very special. From her early years in Christian Rock, to working with her then husband, T Bone Burnett, then being nominated for two Grammy Awards, to pursuing her own style of music in her own folk genre. Some watching and working with her might feel that she is truly driven to prove something to others or herself.

Only one person knows that for sure but as one listens to the lyrics in Push Any Button, she seems to be reinventing herself, or she is having some sort of second birth into evolution. It is ironic that she would be reinventing herself to songs she describes as a nostalgic look of stardom in the 60s and 70s. Sam Phillips is probably doing one thing, and that is having the time of her life.  Regardless what Sam is trying to do, Push Any Button seems to convey a satirical message. For whatever reasons Push Any Button takes us back in time.

Listening to “Pretty Time Bomb,” Sam states “the world is tired of your act, black worn internally.”  For older readers, we can’t help but think of the popular TV 60’s show “Shindig!”, listening to all those one hit wonders trying to be the next Beatles. It could be reckless  second guessing what Sam is trying to convey but as I listen to “Pretty Time Bomb”, it definitely takes me back.

“All Over Me” is another piece of lyrical depth. I love the lyrics “I’m soaked in the light I’ve waited all my life to see… the sincere gifts of those who’ve gone before me pull me up make me forget I want to quit.” Bob Dylan would love this. “All Over Me” says much. Everyone knows how frustrating our lives are at times, but the good news in what “All Over Me” is saying, I’m not done yet. The track also has some added flavor of sax and brass of Alex Budman, Chris Tedesco and Nick Lane.  Nicely done.

Then there is “When I’m Alone.” This could be my favorite piece. Listening to it, I can’t help but hear somewhat of an Asian flare from the strings of The Section Quartet.  But the Duane Eddy guitar really makes it in the end. Once again, Sam says a lot. Her words can cut like a knife to some, but offer tranquility to others. It is an awesome piece.

“See You In Dreams” is another nicely done piece.  The echo harmonies are appropriately done, plus the added strings of The Section Quartet really adds to the melancholic sound.  One line reads,  “I hide behind my eyes.“ Don’t we all.

There are some who might say this album has no direction.  Not true. This album simply offers something for everyone in words, music, and production. “Going” is a classic example. It is a unique ¾ time style waltz with an impressive strings arrangement by Eric Gorfain.  He is spot on with this one.

There was also a really nice 70’s guitar sound in “Things I Shouldn’t Have Told You.”  Was that Mick Ronson?  Chris Bruce and Eric Gorfain did a great job.

Then there is the  best track of all. “You Know I Won’t” simply rocks. The fusion of rockabilly and folk go so well together. All that is needed are Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and maybe some Les Paul. “No Time Like Now” and “Can’t See Straight” are also nicely done. The bar room piano sound  adds to the satire of “Can’t See Straight.” I think they should change the title. I think it should read “Thoughts and Feelings When Washington Talks.”

It is very easy to get excited about Push Any Button. All of the tracks are true to substance.  Sam Phillips needs to feel proud of this one. It is clear she does not have to prove anything to anybody, including herself. Push Any Button allows her time to sit back, relax, and make it happen for the next one.

This is Sam Phillips, and she has just pushed my buttons.

Those who are looking for more information on Sam Phillips can find it at her website. Her album is available for purchase through her website or on Amazon.

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