Phil Marshall | Scatterbed

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Rock: Acoustic Folk: Folk Pop Moods: Type: Lyrical
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by Phil Marshall

The twelve songs (+ one reprise) on this album take on life, death, loss, grief, Shirley Temple, Big Bill Broonzy and, of course, hope. Here's hoping you like it!
Genre: Rock: Acoustic
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Heaven Is Waiting
2:29 $0.99
2. Black Ice
4:05 $0.99
3. Nothing Left to Lose
2:55 $0.99
4. Grief Walks In
3:47 $0.99
5. Shirley Jane
2:38 $0.99
6. Faith
4:06 $0.99
7. Marmalade
3:09 $0.99
8. Ebb and Flow
3:28 $0.99
9. Resting Pulse
4:04 $0.99
10. Wrapped in a Comet's Tail
1:27 $0.99
11. Home Sweet Home
2:40 $0.99
12. Shirley Jane (Reprise)
1:06 $0.99
13. Here's Hoping
2:47 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Scatterbed is, as I would hope most artistic endeavors are, a labor of love. The twelve songs look back on my time as lead guitarist with The Colorblind James Experience and my professional career as a music therapist in hospice. I didn't set out to write about life and death, loss and grief, but life happened and the songs are where I found myself dealing with it. I worked closely with my producer, Chris Zajkowski, who under the moniker Squires of the Subterrain has issued a wonderfully eccentric catalog of CDs in his own write. Chris and I approached the CD one song at a time, giving each one its own character and often completing production before moving on to the next song. While I recognize the intensity of themes in this CD, I find myself hearing the friendship that grew out of our mutual respect and love of this project. I hope you enjoy listening to it. Peace



to write a review

Jonny Rosenblatt

Listen to Scatterbed!
This album captivated me from first note to last. A brilliant record that reeks of emotion and transports you to places both familiar or which could become familiar at any moment. Phil's guitar playing is delicate, precise and superb all at once. Like an audible train wreck, I can't turn my ears away from it!

Michael Tomczyszyn

A somber, honest, and inspiring gallery of songs
One of Rochester’s finest guitar slingers, Phil Marshall, returns with his first musical release since his former band Lalaland’s Nude nearly 20(!) years ago, and it’s worth the wait. His first official solo album, Scatterbed, bears the imprint of his day job (performing for patients in palliative or hospice care) in more ways than just the title; where Lalaland’s songs were subversively political—or at least painted compassionate and sympathetic portrayals of the downtrodden, in stark contrast to the rapacious and exploitative forces that prey upon them—his songs now target even heavier and broader themes: life and death, faith and grief, the attempt to find meaning in our days and courage as we come to their end. It’s a heck of a journey, and if it’s less immediately appealing than Nude, it richly rewards repeated listens and serious attention at least as much as that record.
One constant: Marshall is still eschewing his guitar hero status in his own work, and he continues to emphasize songwriting instead. There are moments of powerful and beautiful and striking guitar on this album, but you won’t hear attention-hogging solos or jaw-dropping technique. When the guitar steps out front, it’s there to add to the song and is carefully considered as a tool to sculpt the mood, shape the energy of the song or sharpen its emotional impact.
It’s true that Scatterbed is a noticeably different affair…jazzier, more introspective and spare than the rootsy pop-rock of his old band. The presence of former Essential/Salamander (and current Squire of the Subterrain) Chris Zajkowski as producer has also brought out some new wrinkles—especially in the arranging touches, where hints of classic 60s pop make themselves felt. Despite all of that that, the real story is that these songs are clearly Marshall’s work and display his characteristic style throughout—the same striking mix of simplicity and sophistication defines his music, and his lyrics still convey startling honesty. His attention to life’s telling little details and his sardonic gallows humor are intact here, so the new sonic colors on this record end up being a welcome addition to his palette, an enriching overlay on a sturdy and enduring voice rather than a shallow attempt to “evolve.”
You’ll hear Beatle-esque touches like the spot-on George Harrison slide guitar on “Heaven is Waiting” and “Faith,” and there are gauzy, sighing Beach Boys harmonies on “Shirley Jane,” but what’s striking is that, underneath those flourishes, Marshall’s identity as a songwriter is so intact and assured. It’s part of the unassuming strength of this album that it’s all so quietly confident. He knows what he wants to say, and he still knows exactly how he wants to say it,and he goes about it patiently, masterfully.
The opener, “Heaven is Waiting,” gets things off to an understatedly majestic start. Equal parts classic jazz-pop ballad and vintage Randy Newman (in a down mood), it advises the listener to “Make peace with your maker—That’s all you can do” because, after all, “Heaven is Waiting for someone like you.” It’s hushed and fragile, but also full of mordant jest, and features killer lines like “Drawn to your fate like a foot to a shoe” as it sets the tone for what follows—an unflinching showdown with mortality.
From there, “Black Ice” depicts a young, destitute band attempting to stake out some turf in the competitive San Francisco music scene. Set against the backdrop of the landmarks Marshall knows so well from his days in SF with the Colorblind James Experience, the song’s spare 5/4 verses and lusher 7/4 choruses—dressed up with whispery harmonies and tinkly glockenspiel—tell a harrowing tale, seedy and desperate and barren. “Nothing Left to Lose” is the first song on the record to kick up anything like Lalaland’s amiable racket—the wistful, lonesome cowboy guitar pop on display here is territory Marshall knows well, and the song seems to be a meditation on gratitude. “Don’t ever tell me there is Nothing Left to Lose,” he sings on the chorus, with deadpan earnestness.
“Grief Walks In” takes things back down—it’s an atmospheric tone piece that is more or less without drums, constructed mostly of layers of backwards electric guitar feedback and a plainsong sort of vocal bleakly intoning wise, knowing lyrics about the pangs of loss. “Sometimes Grief is your unwanted guest.” It’s dark and ruminative and static by design…is that an e-bowed slide guitar solo in there?
After a song like that, the impressionistic dream of “Shirley Jane,” “Finger painting the blues,” is a welcome detour. It’s a sweet bit of surreal levity that lets the record breathe before getting heavy again with “Faith.” Here Marshall tackles a prickly and painful topic that he’s clearly wrestled with a great deal; he sounds genuinely regretful when he sings “Faith, I doubt you’re right for me/ I can’t hold on to you.” Like an anthropomorphized lover who doggedly eludes some of us, she disappears, a prop in the magic tricks frequently referenced in the lyrics—a bit of “sleight of hand,” “smoke and mirrors.” It’s another dark one, built around circular arpeggios that restlessly pace the floor in that long night of the soul, and when the pulsing, vibrato-laden electric piano comes in, complete with Zajkowski doing his very best Ringo on the drums, you could be forgiven for thinking of “She’s So Heavy,” because she is.
After that, “Marmalade” gets nocturnal. It’s torchy and solemn and intimate, middle-of-the-night headphone music, just acoustic guitar and vocals, so delicate that you can hear Marshall’s breathing over the last minute. “Ebb and Flow” is moody and resigned, a sort of prayer to find grace in the shifting reality of life. It’s about time and change, redemption and loss, give and take, life and death. The arrangement is stick-simple: mostly guitar and vocals, with hints of mandolin and wheezy accordion drifting in and out, as well as subdued bass provided by Ken Frank, Marshall’s low-end foil since their CBJE days. “Surrender it all to Ebb and Flow.”
“Resting Pulse” makes one more big statement before the album’s momentum is diffused by a couple short detours that bookend “Home Sweet Home.” It opens with rich, chiming electric guitar playing a repetitive, simple figure that gets jazzier as it segues out. It seems to be about the search for the hard truths that may only be found in the grounded reality of the body, in opposition to the “poets on the radio/ lying through their teeth.” It’s an unsettling song, taken out by screaming saxes that are overdubbed in multiple lines.
“Wrapped in a Comet’s Tail” is a moody instrumental on nylon guitar—a minimalist miniature like Erik Satie on six strings—that sets up one more full-band song, “Home Sweet Home.” This one also relies heavily on feedback and backwards guitar and is pitched somewhere between Lalaland and the more adventurous side of The Beatles. The lyrics revolve around figures from nursery rhymes and children’s folk songs, but the snarly violence of the music belies any sweetness you might assume from that description, and the lyrics gradually get more sinister as the music grows more threatening, an angry, cacophonous buzz and clatter. “A crooked man bought a crooked house and into his home he brought his blushing, crooked bride/ He met a frog once who courted her once with blunderbuss and rapier by his side.” Swells of blistering guitar announce the entrance of the full band, which hits with a wallop, and the regal trumpets that blast in cascades over the middle suggest fairy tale palaces.
The reprise of “Shirley Jane” is a brief, humming interlude before the album-closing “Here’s Hoping,” which kicks off with a mandolin riff that skips and swings before the straighter verses begin. It’s a song about hopes, about dreams and wishes and farewells, about confronting realities and shedding illusions. “Here’s Hoping that today’s the day I remove this evil mask.” When the mandolin riff comes back, bolstered by the rhythm section, it stomps furiously. The final verse may be addressed to Marshall’s wife, since it’s easy to hear “son” in the line “Here’s Hoping that our sun will shine.” It’s a smiling, defiant preparation for the casting off of mortal coils that awaits us…or someone just like us.