Phoebe Hunt
Photo: Nicola Gell / Missing Piece Group

‘Nothing Else Matters’ to Phoebe Hunt

Phoebe Hunt’s Nothing Else Matters celebrates sparseness. This is the sound of being alone. There’s nothing else but an empty room when she plays and sings.

Nothing Else Matters
Phoebe Hunt
Thirty Tigers
28 July 2023

The most striking aspect of fiddler/singer-songwriter Phoebe Hunt’s new solo release, Nothing Else Matters, is its sparseness. This is the sound of being alone. There’s nothing else but an empty room when she plays and sings. This gives the 11 songs intimacy. It’s as if the listener is eavesdropping on a person talking to oneself. Hunt doesn’t offer any great insights or make grand pronouncements as much as affirm her value. “I am in love, I am enough, I am contented,” she sings proudly. Ironically, this song (and the majority of others) are co-written. Hunt declares her singular identity with the help of others. Even though she is the only one singing and playing on the record, the underlying fact is that she knows she couldn’t and didn’t make the music by herself.

This tension gives Nothing Else Matters its edge. Hunt continually makes assertions such as “Because who I am is who I’m meant to be”, “No person can require / that I change the way I am”, “I am not a beggar, walking through the night / I am not a warrior, but I will fight”, etc. declaring her strength and individuality. But she protests too much. Hunt implicitly understands the needs we all have for others.

This comes across most clearly in the nonverbal sections of the record. Hunt is a creative player. It isn’t easy to decide whether to call her a fiddler or violinist as she combines various styles of music. Her biography reveals that she was born in Texas and classically trained. She has since lived and studied in many places, including Brooklyn, India, China, Africa, Los Angeles, Colorado, and Nashville. When Hunt sings and plays, her voice dominates. The instrument follows the vocals, often just playing in tempo or providing a melodic backdrop. When her violin takes over by itself, the songs become more intriguing. One never knows where the music will go.

Please note there are no purely instrumental tracks. One has to listen before, after, and between the lyrics to capture the magic. Hunt has a pleasant voice. On songs such as “Molly My, Dear!”, “I Am a Traveler”, and “Get Along Lill’ Doggies”, she flawlessly croons and yelps through the emotionalism of the lyrics. However, there is little to distinguish her voice from thousands of others. There are lots of good singers in the world.

Hunt’s playing has more to offer. Her fluency in various styles allows her to move seamlessly from one aural language to another. As mentioned, she plays in an empty room with an enormous sense of space. Listening to her resembles someone singing to oneself. The quiet invites the listener to be present in the moment.

“I don’t need the world to hear me / To know that I am singing,” Hunt croons. Maybe that’s true, but then why did she release this album? Don’t listen to her say nothing matters. She knows better. More precisely, Hunt knows there is nothing “else”.

RATING 7 / 10