Baritones 61.7

by Phil Circle

Released 2019
Guilt by Association Records
Released 2019
Guilt by Association Records
Heartfelt, almost meditative, often beautiful, at times gritty; a 23 minute story in five songs written and performed on baritone guitar and voice, with some light band accompaniment.
Phil Circle's first official release was 25 years ago (1994). It was a four song EP and it took four days to record. Perhaps at an unconscious level a 25 year anniversary effort, this album was planned to take five days and include five songs. Well, there are actually seven tracks. Two of the tunes just begged for an analog version to be heard.

Phil bought a baritone guitar in the summer of 2018. To most guitarists with 30+ years of professional experience, respected music coaches at that, especially those among the few surviving original music entrepreneurs of the early 90s, this wouldn't seem like a big deal. But Phil has always been utilitarian in his purchases. Maybe it's leftover from the beans and rice and ramen days. Whatever the case, he still only owns a half dozen guitars including his beloved 1985 Yaeri-Alvarez that pops up accompanying his baritone on two tracks of this album. So, anyways... Phil Circle bought an Ibanez Baritone Acoustic Cutaway Guitar. He wanted a new challenge, both technically and creatively. He wanted to see where this bass-standard hybrid might take him. He didn't see himself doing old Western or Sci-fi soundtracks, but the beautifully rich droning of this instrument did remind him of the Celtic styles he loves. He accepted the challenge of treating it like a whole new instrument and let the creative juices flow and guide him through his musical journey. It turned almost into a spiritual one, as this middle-aged artist reflected on his place in an ever-changing world that at once fascinates and frightens. He delved deep into the self. He cried with raw honesty in the question posed in the song "One More Man," plowed through opposition from life in the primal "Lava," and explored the human spirit in the diptych "Simple."

In January of 2019, Phil started thinking about recording an album with the material he had coming together. In continuing with the spirit of change, he decided to contact his old friend and fellow Chicago native, Ted Wulfers. Ted lives in Los Angeles now and is writing songs and composing soundtracks... and recording other artists in his studio. Phil told Ted he had about five songs put together on this baritone guitar and was thinking about recording a short album. Maybe he should come to L.A.? Two days later, Ted's studio was reserved, plane tickets purchased, and an AirBnb near the studio reserved. Small world that it is, the AirBnb was owned by a two-time Grammy-nominated musician and documentarian who became the first guest of Phil Circle's podcast "Life, Music, and the Pursuit of Answers," which he started while in L.A. to record.

Between March 3rd and 8th of 2019, with Phil Circle on guitars and voice, and Ted Wulfers as the band, engineer, and co-producer, "Baritones 61.7" was recorded at 663 Sound in Los Angeles. Five days brought five songs. Ted recommended including two bonus tracks in the "tape mix" versions. 61.7 refers to the speed of the sound wave created by the lowest "B" string of the baritone guitar. "Baritones" is a play on words and obvious reference to the guitar the songs were composed and performed on, and Phil's natural vocal range. A long friendship turned musical collaboration turned out what Ted called "a love letter to the baritone guitar" and Phil considered one of his most honest and creative records to date.

You can learn more about the relationship between Phil Circle and Ted Wulfers in Phil's book "The Outback Musician's Survival Guide: One Guy's Story of Surviving as an Independent Musician." Phil shares his journey so far, working through more than 30 years as part of the 99% of the music industry. He shares what it's really like, his frailties and foibles, victories and despair. This book won a Readers' Favorite Book Award in 2018. The chapter "The People" includes a section called "Phil and Ted's Excellent Adventure."
Either way, you can hear the kinship of these two veteran artists in this album. Enjoy.