Review by Vaibhav Thomas
When it comes to songwriting and metaphors, there are generally two types of practitioners. One is the judicious, calculating proponent who works out grammatical patterns as to the where and the how, and formulates an approach to songwriting. The other is the naturally gifted rebel who often relies upon a semi-controlled blood rush of instinct, having a pulse on the people’s emotions – whether macroscopic or micro. Many have, to this day, strived to incorporate traits from both types, but only the likes of Bob Dylan, NWA and Taylor Swift have managed to nail that all-important balance. This balance, in tandem with the arrangement, and the choice of genre and chords to complement the lyrics, is what makes a good song great. And with this mixture of songwriting astuteness, one will find many shades of greatness in Oregon-based folk pop duo Phoenix’s newest, titled ‘Calamity Blues’. Written in the key of E Major, Calamity Blues is a marvelous gem of songcraft churned in the realm of acoustic folk and blues, by Tim (vocals) and Kathy Crosby (bass), both of whom constitute Phoenix, whose talent and sheer creativity is at full blast, in terms of their songwriting, instrumental arrangement, and performance. Indeed, the three-verse number switches between its parable-like lyrics and its folksy instrumental interludes in a profoundly delightful manner where the instruments have a singing voice and the rendition of its lyrics is a lively instrument in itself. Themed upon contemporary issues ranging from a woke generation to a rebuttal hypocrisy , the delivery of the lyrics call for a vocal rendition that is at once no-nonsense and non-preachy, yet engaging and peppy, and Tim Crosby rises to this occasion magnificently. Lines like "There's a crisis on the left hand, a scandal on the right, can't see the forest or the trees" are sung with a confident and precise tone, making the song very attention-grabbing, which is crucial for a folk ballad with a message. The use of two instruments, the warm, plucked bass and the versatile guitar, both in the melody and harmony, especially during the interludes, showcases the Crosbys' musical skill.
The bluesy arrangement of the song’s four chords, placed appropriately underneath the lyrics oozes a swingingly elegant breeziness . The mixing of the vocals and the two instruments, each element containing their own space to propagate their sound waves, shines in tandem with the song's other elements. But what makes this great song even greater in the end, is its songwriting, which pulsates with honesty bringing the issues of the day to light. Their performance strikes a balance between thoughtful and the afore-mentioned rush of instinct in a controlled manner that ties meaning and art together.
At a duration of three minutes, the wonderfully titled Calamity Blues is a winner in its own right, and a tremendous addition to the acoustic folk genre. Phoenix has risen with a stellar example of immensely rich socially-forward songwriting.
About Phoenix: Based in Salem, Oregon, Phoenix is the dynamic American folk-pop duo comprised of songwriters Tim and Kathy Crosby. With over two decades of musical collaboration, they have consistently impressed audiences with their songwriting prowess and engaging performances. Tim Crosby's proficiency on various string instruments and Kathy Crosby's vibrant personality and piano expertise make Phoenix a unique and captivating musical act. Phoenix's recent album 'Viewpoint' has gained widespread acclaim and achieved recognition with awards such as the Global Music Award for folk and lyrics/songwriting and the W.A.M. Silver Award for Best Cover Song ('House of the Rising Sun'). 'Calamity Blues' marks the duo's latest endeavor and is already making waves in the music world, with accolades including a bronze medal for Americana singer/songwriter in the Global Music Awards. As songwriters and performers, Phoenix's accolades include:
2020 Global Music Awards Silver Medal Winner
2020 Josie Award Nominee Album of the Year
2021 Josie Award Nominee Duo of the Year
2021 W.A.M Nominee Singer-Songwriter Folk Best Song
2022 Global Music Awards Silver Medal Winner
2022 W.A.M. Silver Award Best Cover Song ('House of the Rising Sun')
2023 Josie Award Nominee Album of the Year (folk/Americana) and Duo of the Year
2023 Intercontinental Music Awards Finalist (Folk) for 'Calamity Blues' and 'Look'
2023 Bronze Medal Winner (Calamity Blues) Global Music Awards
To learn more about Phoenix and inquire about booking, please visit https://www.phoenixduo.org.