Philip B. Price, frontman of Winterpills, returns with his first solo album in over a decade, Bone Almanac, 8 November. Price, whose career has moved in myriad directions, including the art rock collective Memorial Garage, power pop collective the Maggies, and a host of wide-ranging and inspired solo albums (which he reissued in electronic form in 2018), has delivered another masterclass in songwriting and performance with this latest effort.
With Winterpills on a hiatus, Price turned his attention to making a brand new solo record, one that frequently recalls American primitive guitar (John Fahey et al.) and British folk giants such as John Martyn. That is artists who were working with traditional instrumentation but bringing the music into new and exciting reaches.
Price doesn’t disappoint in that regard on Bone Almanac. The 14 tracks accentuate his pure, singular voice and impeccable guitar playing via material such as “Whiskey Bells”, the heart-stopping “C’Mon World” (which features some of the album’s most soul-searing lyrics), to the meditative “Smothered in Green”. His penchant for the poetic remains very much intact but perhaps nowhere as much as on “Crow Mocks My Wings”, the type of song that some writers build their entire careers on but, for Price, stands as but one entry in an impressive body of song.
Speaking with PopMatters from his home in Massachusetts while caring for his son and folding the family laundry, Price discussed the origins of Bone Almanac and his continued artistic evolution.
This is your first solo album since 2004. Was it a matter of you writing for Winterpills or was this a conscious break from your solo career?
A little of both. A big part of this was that my wife and I had a baby. I knew that the band couldn’t do much for a stretch. I also had a collection of songs that, in my mind, didn’t fit with Winterpills. They felt different.
You re-released some of your past solo albums last year. Was that inspirational?
When I went through that old stuff it reminded me that I was able to make records without a band. I also think my aesthetic has shifted.
You’ve had a varied career.
When I started, I wanted to make weird, downtown art rock. Then I felt more at home in the folk world.
There’s a tradition of acoustic artists such as John Martyn and John Fahey who were also cutting edge.
I love those guys and am mining some of that territory on this album. I wanted to make something that represented what I could do live. All of the core performances were done that way. I did it in four days, surrounded by four oddly tuned acoustic guitars. To me, the songs sound like a guy playing acoustic guitar alone.
Did you feel that there were thematic connections in the songs?
I had a series of songs that were almost structureless. Like an open question. I had a conversation with myself about environmental devastation. I’m not good about writing message songs but there was a core anxiety about destroying the fabric of existence.
Have you seen the film First Reformed?
That messed me up. It didn’t make it into the songs but the Ethan Hawke character is having a pretty heavy dialogue along the same lines.
Tell me about the song “Holding on to Light”.
I liked the way that the song moved around modally. It was the beginning of asking myself how to exist in a state of disintegration.