Though his earlier albums under the Phosphorescent name are good, Matthew Houck really found himself through Willie Nelson. In 2009, Houck released an all-Willie covers album called To Willie (echoing Nelson’s own 1977 ode to Lefty Frizzell, To Lefty From Willie). Houck’s cracked voice seems especially suited to Nelson’s own perfectly imperfect tunes, and Houck sounded radiant for the first time in his career. For the next few albums, he ditched the downer folk of his early days in favor of an idiosyncratic blend of country and psychedelia. On Here’s To Taking It Easy and Muchacho, Houck sounds energized and masterful, using country music’s past to blaze a new trail.
I’ve been lucky to catch Phosphorescent on tour a few times, and I’m struck by Houck’s presence. He turns into a fiery preacher onstage, delivering his sermons on love and loss while the band follows his every move. Just like Nelson, Phosphorescent also play around with their songs and provide interesting live renditions (captured perfectly on this year’s Live At The Music Hall album). The band recently stopped by Studio 1A and did the same for “Song For Zula,” playing down the electronic elements in favor of the country ballad at the song’s heart. Download the song below.