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Phosphorescent, ‘To Willie’ (Dead Oceans)

SPIN iconBy: SPIN Staff // January 20, 2009

Outlaw legend Willie Nelson’s 1977 album To Lefty From Willie was an attempt by a superstar to exalt a forgotten honky-tonk hero — Lefty Frizzell. But here, when Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houck and his band pay homage to Nelson, it feels like a greenhorn hitching on to the pothead patron saint’s biodiesel wagon as a credibility grab. Which is surprising, since Houck’s scruffy craft was evident on 2007’s Pride. Even though the wobbly voiced frontman unearths some deep cuts — such as “Permanently Lonely” (from Always on My Mind) — and wraps them in synthesized gauze, the heart of the album sags with indie rock’s sad-sack mannerisms.

Listen: Phosphorescent, “Reasons To Quit” (DOWNLOAD MP3)

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