Phil Circle is looking back to move forward with his digital release of “Guilty/Not Guilty,” a chronological collection of Phil’s work over 25 years as a musician. Marking the 25th anniversary of his 1994 debut EP release, “Four Days Later,” that grew into the full length critically acclaimed album “Extenuating Circumstances” with his band, Guilty. This new project features songs that are currently unavailable or have never before been digitally released.
Phil Circle's 2019 release featuring songs entirely written and recorded on his Ibanez Baritone Guitar. Called "a masterpiece" and "magical," this album tells a subtle story of one man's journey in the modern world he's watched change at a breakneck pace.
With 5 individual songs and two bonus tracks featuring a "Tape Mix" on two tracks, this 7 track EP has received critical acclaim from listeners and reviewers alike.
Featuring unreleased tracks and tracks from albums that are no longer available, this collection as released in 2018 as a Limited Edition Numbered and Signed CD. The album includes the later-released single Belief and a couple tracks from Circle's debut full length album Guilty: Extenuating Circumstances. There are also a couple live acoustic tracks of covers: Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie, and Crossroads by Robert Johnson.
Live at Uncommon Ground
On October 28th, 2018, a comfortable Sunday evening in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, Phil Circle played an opening set for Scottish alt blues artist and old pal, Dave Arcari. They streamed it live. This is that set. Since they opened in 1991, Phil Circle has been a regular at Uncommon Ground and has been repeatedly bootlegged from the board, but this set is official: Phil Circle solo live at Uncommon Ground knocking through 45 minutes of his music and spanning decades of recordings, he demonstrates why his prolific songwriting and energetic live performance make him "a staple of Chicago music" (Center Stage)
This album is a collection of covers by mostly lesser known Chicago songwriters, with the exception of Chicago's own Michael McDermott, Neil Young, and Patrick Behan. Phil Circle performs all the songs with the help of local musicians in Wisconsin's Chippewa Valley, where the album was recorded at Pine Hollow.
Harvest Moon by Neil Young is performed by Phil Circle and Gordy Bischoff (Bischoff Guitars) on a specially made Bischoff Ukulele. The Patriot Game, a classic Irish rebel tune, is performed on a baritone guitar by co-producer Evan Middlesworth with Circle's vocals. No Closer To Home was written by one of Phil Circle's students who had just previously released his debut album of the same name. Several of the artists whose music is covered here commented that Circle's versions spoke with as much truth as their own.
Living in the Chippewa Valley
It all started with a live guest artist appearance at Pine Hollow Audio in Wisconsin's Chippewa Valley, just outside Eau Claire. Phil Circle was invited to come into the studio with several local artists to teach them a song and record what they all came up with live, right there. What ensued was an 11-minute version of Circle's No Cover Charge morphing into Lyin' Again.
Then it occurred to Phil that he'd like to get to work on some new studio material. The thing was, he didn't have many newly minted songs. So, he revived Fly On By, a song referenced in his memoir in a story about his Dad. Then he found another old one called Lost and Found and included the spoken-word story behind the song in recording. Around this time, Phil's close friend and long time musical collaborator Matt "Matteo" Steinmetz passed away, spurring Just the Blues, Ma'am. Lastly, while walking down State Hwy 93 to the corner store near his house, he wrote Living in the Chippewa Valley in his head. These completed the EP, aptly named "Living in the Chippewa Valley" that shares his somewhat rocky times in Northern Wisconsin.
Minutes to Circle
Hailed by Chicago media as "proof that (Circle) still has something to say" and calling him "one of our town's most unique voices," this first full band album since his live 2000 Guilty: Live on WZRD, clearly states the variety of styles that Circle is capable of writing in and performing.
With country, progressive blues, Irish traditional and drinking tunes, straight forward guitar rock, Latinesque rock, jazz, and pop-rock, one of the earliest observations about Circle's music by In The Mix Magazine in 1997 holds true; That he "defies rock, jazz, and blues." And yet, by all counts, his music contains a thread of Circle's own vocal, guitar, and lyrical styles.
For Chicago residents, the cover is an inside joke that no longer rings true. The interstate highway system that converges in downtown Chicago was once called The Circle Interchange and signs over the highway (like the one pictured and altered for this album cover) would tell you how many "minutes to Circle." Nowadays, it's called the Byrne Interchange after Chicago's first female mayor, Jane Byrne. (1979-83)
While Phil Circle's band, Guilty, completed two releases that included his debut full length album, he was also building a repertoire of songs that didn't seem to suit the 8-piece band's rock-jazz-blues crossover style. So, once Guilty broke up, Circle set to recording wherever and whenever he could. This 16-track album was the result.
Recorded in three studios between Chicago and New Mexico, mostly in live sessions, the songs reach as far back as 1989 and as far forward as the year of release, 2003. Setting the stage for his reputation as a solo artist and priming the pump for several years to come, this album is very appropriately self-titled, Phil Circle. A few songs were recorded again later on, with additional artists involved.