In 1996, one of the greatest debut records in the history of singer-songwriters was released. Chock-full of spellbinding lyrics, great musicianship and an overall infectious spirit, Phil Cody’s The Sons of The Intemperance Offering was an instant classic. The 14-track masterpiece was a gritty throwback to an era when music meant something.
Undoubtedly ahead of its time, it was criminally ignored by the powers that be at Interscope Records, who were more concerned with raking in bucket-loads of cash off the untimely death of Tupac Shakur. Despite critical praise likening Cody to “the next Bob Dylan” and a blossoming national fan base, the Ohio-born wordsmith unceremoniously parted ways with the label after just one record.
When a limited independent release of his equally impressive sophomore record, Big Slow Mover, failed to garner much national attention, Cody seemingly disappeared from the music world, much like a character in one of his ballads.
Since then, his small but devoted fan base has kept an online vigil hoping that someday he would emerge with a new record, enabling Cody to claim the songwriting throne currently being soiled by an array of near-hacks like the supposedly deep Bright Eyes or the just plain offensive Dashboard Confessional.
That is why it came as a total shock when a single concert date popped up on the Internet: Phil Cody was emerging from his self-imposed sabbatical — to appear at the Avocado Festival in Carpinteria, of all places!
So on Oct. 8, in front of a food court full of guacamole aficionados and casual passers-by, one of the most underrated songwriters in the country performed for the first time in nearly two years.
Mr. Cody, complete with his trademark shades and hat, looked as if he hadn’t missed a beat during his layoff. Without a backing band, he sat on a white plastic chair and proceeded to deliver a 40-minute set of songwriting bliss.
Occasionally accompanied by his young daughter, who would bound onstage for an impromptu dance, set highlights included a rousing version of “My Darling Clementine,” the poignant “Prodigal Town” and a new version of the old-yet-timely spiritual “Study War No More.”
It was indeed a bizarre setting for Cody’s triumphant return, and clearly most in attendance had no understanding of the afternoon’s significance but for a few jaw-dropped fans. It was a monumental event. With rumors of a new record in the next year, soon Phil Cody may finally no longer be thought of as ahead of his time, but as one of the best of his time.