New music from Toad the Wet Sprocket’s Glen Phillips

My good friend Glen Phillips, who writes and sings the songs for Toad the Wet Sprocket and brings different shades of the same wisdom and warmth to his own solo tunes, released a new album called COYOTE SESSIONS today.

Let me back up a second. Glen’s not really my close personal friend, but I sure feel like he is after all the times I’ve found everything from energy and elation to solace from sadness in his songs. Though he did send me a message on Facebook once inviting me to a house concert he did in Louisville, so I’m going to consider him my buddy until he tells me differently.

And I’m actually responsible for one of his recordings! In 2008, I sent my good friend (no exaggeration this time) Jonatha Brooke a copy of Glen’s SECRETS OF THE NEW EXPLORERS concept EP (listen here) as a way belated birthday gift, and her immediate response was, “I have to sing a song with this guy. Do you know how to contact him?”

She asked me the question on a Monday. Through pure coincidence, I had tickets to Glen’s show at the Music Mill in Indianapolis that Wednesday. He knew Jonatha’s work and loved the idea, so I gave him her contact info and a copy of her gobsmackingly amazing CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR album. The following Monday, when Jonatha was in Los Angeles for a songwriting workshop, she drove up to Glen’s house in Santa Barbara, where they recorded “Sweetest Angel” for THE WORKS, her gorgeous album of songs inspired by unfinished lyrics and poems of Woody Guthrie (provided to Jonatha by Woody’s daughter).

You can hear “Sweetest Angel” here (and even buy it if you’d like). Lyrics are here. It’s beautiful beyond description, and if I never accomplish another thing for the rest of my life, at least I’ll know I played a part in making something so lovely happen.

Glen and the rest of Toad the Wet Sprocket are finishing up a new Toad album for release next year, but in the meantime Glen has gone back to his vast musical well and fished out some rarely heard winners for new leases on life. In his own words:

“This album is a collection of beloved orphans – songs I’ve played live but never put on a record, or co-writes that other artists have cut but I hadn’t gotten around to recording. COYOTE SESSIONS is also an experiment in recording. My friend Sean McCue lost his previous studio in the Tea Fire a couple years ago, and recently finished building a new workspace, Coyote Road Studio. It’s a big open room, with a distinctive sound. We wanted to see how truly we could capture a real performance – no electronic mixing, no overdubs, just a single microphone a couple feet away from me and players moved around the room to balance the sound. We hope you like the results.”

Don’t worry, Glen. As usual, satisfaction is blissfully inherent in everything you make.

COYOTE SESSIONS kicks off with “I’m Still Carrying You,” which I’d previously only heard from this quiet (but high quality) homemade live recording. (Big thanks to the taper.)

Check it out:

How beautiful is that? It’s one of my favorite Glen songs, and I’m thrilled to finally have it on an album.

Another one I really love is “No Blue Sky,” which Glen co-wrote with Shawn Mullins, Pete Droge, and Marshall Altman. It first appeared on the 2003 self-titled album by The Thorns, which was a trio of Mullins, Droge, and Matthew Sweet. Glen’s stripped down version really brings the gut-busting beauty of the lyrics to bear; it’s like hearing the song again for the first time (and believe me, I’ve spun that Thorns version plenty).

If you click here, you can buy the album in any format for only $7 (or more if you choose; I gave $12 and got the ALAC download, because I’m a nerd for high quality). You can also listen to each song and read the lyrics and share them on your Facebook or Twitter or whatever else you care to broadcast on. This is as pure and as potent as Glen gets, with emphasis on the voice and the words.

I can’t wait to spend lots of time with this record. And thanks again, Mr. Phillips, for doing what you do to make this planet a better one to be on.