'Widdershins' is an arcane word meaning counterclockwise or against the sun's course. It's considered unlucky. Grant-Lee Phillips revives it to question our path in turbulent times. Although in his own career he has made unexpected lurches from country to 80s covers, this ninth album since he parked the Grant-Lee Buffalo band name sees a return to what he's best at: emotional rock songs that marry grandeur and raw punch.
The title is a real word which, according to Phillips, means "moving counter-clockwise, spiralling backwards", a fitting umbrella for a set of songs inspired by what he describes as "the things that eat away in the late hours." And while the singer-songwriter stresses that the subject matter responds specifically to modern times, the alt. Americana of the music harks back to his formative years fronting Grant Lee Buffalo. Recorded over an intense four-day period, much quicker than any of Phillips' previous eight solo albums, the album dissects the 21st century condition with insight and wit.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "widdershins" as "in a left-handed, wrong, or contrary direction," and it's not hard to feel that word applies to plenty that's going on in America in the year 2018. It certainly seems Grant-Lee Phillips feels that way, but he's greeting a chaotic time with hope, defiance, and a heart full of rock & roll on the album Widdershins. In the album's first song, "Walk in Circles," Phillips sings, "I'd rather go down fighting for the water/Than start another war for oil/Go find another way to fill the coffers," and it's just one of several tunes where he takes a stand against fascism and greed, and in favor of a better world for us all.