Sam Phillips, Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers All Ages Critic's Choice Early Warnings (Music) Recommended Soundboard

When: Sat., Sept. 6 and Sun., Sept. 7, 7:30 p.m. 2008

On Don’t Do Anything (Nonesuch), her first self-­produced album—her marriage to T Bone Burnett, who was behind the board for most of her previous discs, ended a few years ago—Sam Phillips faces down the uncertainties and ambiguities of life without succumbing to the futile urge to manage them. The title track is streaked with bitterness, as she yearns for an unconditional connection to someone who finds worth only in achievement (“I love you when you don’t do anything”), and on “My Career in Chemistry” she half curses the elusive sparks that keep relationships alive. Most of the songs seem like postmortems for her marriage, but Burnett is still present in a way—the sound of the record is very much the one he developed, a dichotomy between the sweet, moody tunefulness of Phillips’s husky, molasses-thick voice and the grinding, broken-down music, with its unkempt guitars, amp-static patina, and rattling, buzzing junk-drawer percussion. She applies her beautiful melodies to these derelict-sounding tracks like a balm—especially when she sings Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s celebratory declaration “I hear music up above” in the sleepy, soothing voice a mother might use to send a child to bed. It sounds like she knows that music is the one thing she can always count on. Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers open both shows. —Peter Margasak

Price: $28, $24 children and seniors

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