Music Matters Review

Phillip Sandifer—Go On
2018, Wider Sky Music

Philip Sandifer has been recording since the early 80s, but because much of his early work was only released into the contemporary Christian market, he may be a new name to many. His participation in Disney Records’ A Bugs Life Sing Along earned him a Grammy Award nomination in 1999, and he’s amassed a goodly number of solo albums, as well as multiple production credits. Listening to Go On may just make you wonder how Sandifer has managed to fly under your radar for so long.
All nine of these songs are smart and significant. None of these is more gripping than “Looking for a War,” portraying a troubled individual who is always spoiling for a fight, whether on the battlefield or away from it. “Seen Too Much” explores the way the constant barrage of bad news, whether the nightly news or our Facebook feeds, beats us down emotionally. “That Kind of Lonely” puts the listener in the shoes of a homeless soul. “Have you ever been that kind of lonely?” Sandifer asks.
A few of these songs speak directly to Sandifer’s job as a songwriter. “The Trouble with Guitars” has the potential to become a huge country hit in the right hands. Sung with an arrangement prominently featuring mandolin and steel guitar, Sandifer sings about how so much of his personal life ends up in his songs. Much like the novelist who poorly conceals his friends and acquaintances in his stories, even Sandifer’s wife knows when he is writing a song about her.
“Forever Home” speaks positively about adoption. It’s a ray of hope that contrasts with “Seen Too Much.” Where “Seen Too Much” finds Sandifer unwillingly focused on all the negatives of modern life, “Forever Home” salutes the strong that help the weak, where, amidst all the chaos in the world, good things happen because good people do good things.
God is conspicuously absent from Go On, which is not to say these songs are particularly godless, but that he doesn’t refer much to his Christian faith. Even so, there is a Christian empathy saturating these songs. He may be disappointed by the world, but he never expresses anger at it. In the end, he has the hopeful attitude of a spiritual man.
With all the fluff in popular music, it’s heartening to discover music with real substance.—Dan MacIntosh