Sam Phillips sings torch songs: Her imagistic lyrics crackle with flames, incinerators and heat, and they tell succinct tales of tortured emotions and of getting burned by love.
"I detected fire in myself before the flame that burned it all to the ground," she sings on the recent Don't Do Anything.
In the third chapter of her career, Phillips has become a master of resignation and of terse, poetic details. She began recording for Christian labels in the mid-'80s under her given-name, Leslie Phillips; then, with the help of her producer/husband T Bone Burnett, she turned to baroque pop in a series of acclaimed albums, including the aptly titled Omnipop. Then, with 2001's Fan Dance, she stripped away the elaborate settings and ended up reinventing herself again.