album reviews

GOOD FOR A WHILE EP

"The recording project of Maryland’s Phillips Saylor Wisor, Stripmall Ballads emerged onto the ‘outsider folk’ scene (if such a thing exists) in 2008 with SINCE JIMMY DIED, and has released a number of haunting releases in the intervening years. Melding Appalachian musical sensibilities with heartbroken, downcast lyrics and dry wit, Stripmall Ballads updates traditional songwriting for the contemporary time, the age-old concerns of death and longing cast through a modern lens to include everything from PTSD and estrangement to Gatorade and rubber gloves.

Stripmall Ballads are back with a brand new release, GOOD FOR A WHILE, a two-track EP that aims to pave the way for a brand new full-length album in 2019. Along with Evan Harris (bass), Jeremy Ebert (slide guitar), Darren Whitaker (guitar and vocals), Brandon Woods (drums and vocals) and Joshua P. James (harmony vocals), Phillips Saylor Wisor has evolved his sound so that it has something of a paradoxically rich lo-fi style—bringing to mind Gillian Welch and Townes Van Zandt but also big rocks bands like R.E.M.

A-side 'You Were Good (I Was Good For a While),' draws inspiration from John Kennedy Toole’s Neon Bible, the Southern Gothic overtones fleshing out a world of strange violence and constant struggle. There’s nostalgia in the style too, though for what and when is unclear, as though the narrator understands that the time and place for which he pines is nothing more than a idealised fiction. The result is a gentle, lilting sadness that gradually yet constantly tightens its grip on things, the narrator’s desperation rising through the minor chords.

B-side ‘Yes Praise, Mercy Yes’ is a plaintive song of resistance that is at once pessimistic and unyielding, as though understanding the futility of protest against power but at the same time drawing energy and purpose from it. Such a nuanced and wistful take on opposition and resilience is made all the more poignant by the fundamental simplicity of the track—relying as it does on mournful vocals and the wistful spirit of our time."

— Various Small Flames (UK)  | 2018

"STRIPMALL BALLADS is the moniker of Phillips Saylor Wisor. The founding member of The Shiftless Rounders he’s been working as Stripmall Ballads since 2008. And like the wispy breeze off of an R.E.M.-esque saga, the intangible talents of Phillips comes to the fore, each and every note you entangle your senses to. The Americana-country adaptations in taste, is incorrigible in its return to the basics and the wildness of our hearts. It’s love. The new full length record is scheduled to drop in 2019. It’s been 5 years, and we think it’s about dang time to hear more of Stripmall Ballads."

— comeherefloyd | 2018


SINCE JIMMY DIED

"SINCE JIMMY DIED is Phillips, his guitar, some beautifully written songs and his voice with that country twang and that's it and it's PERFECT. This is music played with raw emotion and full of sincerity and it's to be admired." 

— youcrazydreamers.com - UK

"SINCE JIMMY DIED is fractured and flawed.......and for those reasons it is also hauntingly gorgeous, melding Appalachian roots with intimate, Beat poet-esque lyrical ruminations." 

Seven Days (Burlington, VT)

"Not unlike his moniker, I find the music Saylor creates can have a bit of everything in an unassuming package – there is country, folk, noise, rock all mixed into a lo-fi package that really works. The one “piece of work” that I have really enjoyed is SINCE JIMMY DIED, which was released last year and is 10 tracks of a man singing his very heart out. Not in the sense that he can sing no longer, but in a sense that he leaves everything out there for you to ingest. Let yourself take it all in and you will realize that this tragic sounding album is one of the most beautiful things you will hear. I swear that this album breaks my heart just a little each time I listen to it and it isn’t entirely due to subject matter but the overall atmosphere the album creates. If I was more aware of the album, it would have been placed quite predominantly in my best of 2008 collection. Why he isn’t more well known is beyond me.  Saylor’s voice has just a little bit of the south peaking through, just enough cracking (or actually the straddling of a natural break between his higher and lower singing voice) to draw you in. It isn’t polished and it isn’t supposed to be. Polish wouldn’t work on Stripmall Ballads as this is one of those stripmalls in the industrial area of town that doesn’t have the flash and glitz but has everything you will ever need. I know bad analogy but this acoustic folk album is just too good for you to let slip by. Do yourself a favour and swing by and pick up a copy – to entice you, here are two stand out tracks below to get you moving."

— Slowcoustic.com "Why Aren't They Famous Yet?"


13 SONGS

"This is also the soundtrack of a full out championship demon-wrestling match, with most of the slamdowns made by Saylor's preternaturally weary voice, cracked like the bottom of an old fine bone china cup. Stripmall Ballads posits a kind of punk bluegrass, with Phillips'delivery crisscrossing boundaries between Guthrie-esque folksinging, beatnik poetry and country hellfire preaching..."

— vue magazine

general reviews

Introspective darkness offering honest and vivid stories you just don't get in music these days. ”

— Eugene Weekly

Saylor himself has a wanderlust that would border on mania if it weren't structured around a musical odyssey that makes Alan Lomax's documentary questing look narrow and slackerly. ”

— see magazine, edmonton, alberta, canada

Stripmall Ballads is Phillips Saylor with a guitar or banjo. Listening to his MySpace page, you’d think that his shows would be rather mellow, but the man has so much stage presence and power in his play... ”

— NeverHadToFight.com