Monday, May 26, 2008

Official obituary for Utah Phillips

Folksinger, Storyteller, Railroad Tramp Utah Phillips Dead at 73

Nevada City, California:
Utah Phillips, a seminal figure in American folk music who performed extensively and tirelessly for audiences on two continents for 38 years, died Friday of congestive heart failure in Nevada City, California a small town in the Sierra Nevada mountains where he lived for the last 21 years with his wife, Joanna Robinson, a freelance editor.

Born Bruce Duncan Phillips on May 15, 1935 in Cleveland, Ohio, he was the son of labor organizers. Whether through this early influence or an early life that was not always tranquil or easy, by his twenties Phillips demonstrated a lifelong concern with the living conditions of working people. He was a proud member of the Industrial Workers of the World, popularly known as "the Wobblies," an organizational artifact of early twentieth-century labor struggles that has seen renewed interest and growth in membership in the last decade, not in small part due to his efforts to popularize it.

Phillips served as an Army private during the Korean War, an experience he would later refer to as the turning point of his life. Deeply affected by the devastation and human misery he had witnessed, upon his return to the United States he began drifting, riding freight trains around the country. His struggle would be familiar today, when the difficulties of returning combat veterans are more widely understood, but in the late fifties Phillips was left to work them out for himself. Destitute and drinking, Phillips got off a freight train in Salt Lake City and wound up at the Joe Hill House, a homeless shelter operated by the anarchist Ammon Hennacy, a member of the Catholic Worker movement and associate of Dorothy Day.

Phillips credited Hennacy and other social reformers he referred to as his "elders" with having provided a philosophical framework around which he later constructed songs and stories he intended as a template his audiences could employ to understand their own political and working lives. They were often hilarious, sometimes sad, but never shallow.

"He made me understand that music must be more than cotton candy for the ears," said John McCutcheon, a nationally-known folksinger and close friend.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

May 25, 2008 Playlist

1.Railroad Earth: Bringin' My Baby Back Home (Amen Corner), Sci Fidelity advance copy
2. Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands: Going to The West (Live), Spruce & Maple 2004
3. Kevin Danzig w/Siel Snowden: Route 66 (Box Cars), self
4. Christine Albert: L'air de la Louisiane (Paris, Texafrance), MoonHouse 2906

5. Grayson Capps: New Orleans Waltz (Wail & Ride), Hyena 9352
6. John Egenes: West Texas Highway (Crucifixion), Delta Vee 06001
7. Lori McKenna: I Know You (Unglamorous), Warner Bros. 44299
8. Angel Band: Jump Back in The Ditch (With Roots & Wings), Appleseed 1108

We lost Utah Phillips on Friday May 23:
9 – 12: Utah from Starlight on the Rails: A Songbook (AK Press / Daemon Records 19047
9. The Telling Takes Me Home
10. Yuba City
11. All Used Up
12. Frisco Road

Written by Utah:
13. Emmylou Harris: Green Rolling Hills (Quarter Moon in A Ten Cent Town), Warner Bros. LP 1978
14 - 17 from Starlight on The Rails: A Songbook (AK Press / Daemon Records 19047)
14. Kate Brislin & Jody Stecher: A Ragged Old Man
15. Rosalie Sorrels: Rock Salt & Nails
16. Kendall Morse: Ashes on The Sea
17. Kate Wolf: Aces, Straights, & Flushes

18. Kate Campbell (Beekley Library 5/31): Wheels within Wheels (Blues and Lamentations), Large River 4104
19. Abigail Washburn and The Sparrow Quartet (Iron Horse 5/31): A Fuller Wine (Abigail Washburn and The Sparrow Quartet), Nettwerk

Ken wrote this about a woman convicted of being a witch in Windsor CT and hung in Hartford on May 26, 1647:
20. Ken Hicks: Alse Young (single), self

I was reminded of Si's song by the story of Oscar Pistorius, the South African athlete who runs using "Cheetahs," prosthetic legs -- Oscar has been approved to try out for the Olympics after first being denied because it was thought the prostheses gave him an advantage:
21. Si Kahn: What You Do with What You've Got (Unfinished Portraits), Flying Fish LP 1984

The Dreaded Folk Calendar over selections from "Fiddle Me This" by Zoe Darrow and The Fiddleheads (self)

Memorial Day:
22. James McMurtry: Memorial Day (Childish Things), Compadre 65842
23. Dave Boutette: New Parade (The Piccolo Heart), Embassy Hotel 042
24. Bruce Pratt: The Unknown (Double Diamonds), West River Cassette
25. Tom Paxton: The Unknown (Politics Live), Flying Fish 70486

26. Iris DeMent: There's A Wall in Washington (The Way I Should), Warner Bros 46188
27. Joel Mabus: Touch A Name on The Wall (Retold), Fossil 1808
28. Andy Revkin: Arlington (demo), self
29. Jez Lowe: Dover Delaware (Jez Lowe Peace CD-R), Tantobie
30. Billy Bragg: Send Their Souls Back Home (Mr. Love & Justice), Anti- 86712

I read Dana Milbank’s Washington Post article “What the Family Would Let You See, the Pentagon Obstructs”
31. Robby Hecht: Along the Way (Late Last Night), self
32. Roy Zimmerman: Thanks for Your Support (single), self
33. Bruce Springsteen: Bring 'Em Home (The Seeger Sessions -- American Land Edition), Columbia 88231
34. Eliza Gilkyson et al: Peace Call (Land of Milk and Honey), Red House 174

A friend writes about the late Utah Phillips

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A rumination on the passing of U. Utah Phillips, anarchist, wobbly,hobo, railroader, folksinger, activist, great iconoclast, husband, father and and all around amazing human being.

By Ken Sanders, a friend.

The golden voice of the great southwest, U. Utah Phillips, will sing and story tell no more. Bruce Phillips passed away at his Nevada City, California home, last evening, May 23rd, 2008 from heart failure, at age 73. After a lifetime spent on the road and speaking and singing out against injustice wherever he found it, one of America's great iconoclasts is dead. After a lifetime spent helping others, Utah
Phillips had little of wordly goods left over for himself. Eschewing monetary wealth his entire life, he made a conscious choice not to seek out a heart transplant that might have prolonged his life; not simply because he couldn't afford it and had no health insurance, but in part because of quality of life issues.

U. Utah Phillips was born in Cleveland, Ohio, May 15th, 1935 during the great depression and later served his country during the Korean War in the 1950s, where his political views and anti-establishment stance were formed. Musically influenced by Woody Guthrie and the emerging folk protest movements of the 1930s & 40s, he styled his moniker, U. Utah Phillips, after his musical hero, T. Texas Tyler. He grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, and spent many years of his life here and always
had a love/hate affair with his adopted state. It was in Salt Lake that he met Ammon Hennacy, a Catholic anarchist and fellow wobbly, who founded the Joe Hill House, which Phillips and Hennacy ran for many years. A card carrying member of the IWW for most of his life, Utah Phillips spent his life defending the rights of the working man, the homeless and the indigent and also had a lifelong passion for trains
and hobos.

Around this time he first met fellow singer songwriter folksinger Rosalie Sorrels, who was the first to popularize and record songs by Phillips. Sorrels and Phillips became lifelong friends and performed dozens of concerts together over the decades. He ran for the U.S. Senate from Utah in 1968 on the Peace and Freedom Ticket, garnering over 2,000 votes in a defeat to long term U.S. Senator, Wallace F. Bennett. father of current long term Utah Republican senator, Robert F. Bennett. His first recorded album was Good Though, followed by We Have Fed You For a Thousand Years, and he gained a whole new audience through his joint album with Ani DiFranco, Fellow Workers. Many other musicians (Tom Waits, Emmylou Harris, Ian Tyson, Rosalie Sorrels, Ani DiFranco & many others) have recorded Utah Phillips songs over the
years, including such classics as "Moose Turd Pie," "Rock Salt & Nails," "Green Rolling Hills," " Daddy, What's A Train," and "Goodnight-Loving Train."

For many years Utah Phillips hosted his own radio show in Nevada City called "Loafer's Glory: The Hobo Jungle of the Mind" and was a well known community activist there. His story telling abilities were legendary and any Utah Phillips performance was likely at least three quarters stories with a few tunes thrown in. He was an ardent student of history and had a lifelong passion for trains and hoboes His passing has rent a huge whole in the fabric of the universe which can't
be mended. He will be missed. Rave On Utah Phillips! RAVE ON!

I first became aware of Utah Phillips as a youth in the 60s in Salt Lake through the old Cosmic Aeroplane, back when he was running for the U. S. Senate. I believe Bruce was also involved in the then campaign to get the national anthem changed to Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land." Through the Cosmic Aeroplane in the 1970s , I had the honor and privilege of getting to know Bruce as a friend and was involved in
several concerts back in that day, including an environmental fundraiser concert with Phillips and the late Edward Abbey, who although they had never previously met, became friendly after that concert. Abbey tried to track Utah down the next day to get Bruce to show Ed the exact spot in the old prison grounds where they shot Joe Hill. Later we sponsored a concert with Phillips and Rosalie Sorrels at East High through the Cosmic Aeroplane. Bruce hadn't been back to Utah in a few years, and
prior to the concert, the police dusted off an old outstanding warrant for his arrest and threw him in jail. We had to bail him out of jail in order for the concert to proceed that evening. Several years ago, after losing track of him over the years, our paths crossed at the Gold Rush Book Fair in Nevada City California where he was the guest of honor and we renewed our decades old friendship. I last saw Bruce and his wife Joanne exactly a year ago, at the same Gold Rush Book Fair, where Utah regaled my daughter Melissa with stories throughout that evening.
Rock salt and nails, amigo, rock salt and nails.

Ken Sanders
Ken Sanders Rare Books, ABAA

Postscript from Duncan Phillips at 11:14pm
This may be late news for some but for rest i must tell you that shortly before midnight, in his sleep wife his loving wife Joanna by his side my father Bruce "Utah "Phillips passed away.

It should be of great comfort that dad was able to spend his last months at home with friends, family and a community that he deeply loved.

There have been no arrangements made as of yet and as i can I will keep you posted.

I feel a deep loss not just for myself and my family but for the global community as a whole. Dad meant and represented something different to each of us.
Not much more I can say at this point.
Thank You All

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Delightful Video of "Galway Girl"

Mundy with Sharon Shannon performing Steve Earle's "Galway Girl:"

Article about Texas musician Sam Baker

Texas singer seeks to understand a tragedy

By NAOMI KOPPEL, The Associated Press
2008-05-23 12:23:16.0

KILKENNY, Ireland -

"Forget his face? Of course I don't," Sam Baker sings, of a young German boy who died along with his parents on a train in Peru in 1986. The three had been sitting on facing seats and the bomb that killed them was in the luggage rack above their heads, set by Shining Path guerrillas.

The man in the fourth seat was Baker.

The song probes the psychological legacy for Baker, who had been talking to the boy before the bomb went off. Its title, "Broken Fingers," reveals part of the physical legacy - three twisted, unusable fingers that forced him to relearn to play the guitar left-handed.

That he survived at all is remarkable: The explosion severed the main artery and vein in his left thigh and he almost bled to death. He suffered brain damage, kidney failure, gangrene and severe hearing loss, and went through years of surgery.

Perhaps the most extraordinary part of Baker's story: He is making a name for himself as one of the most original new singer-songwriters in contemporary folk music.

Before the bombing, the native of Itasca, Texas, had been a whitewater river guide who enjoyed traveling, walking and climbing. That all ended in a moment. "Every day for a long time was like being in some kind of fog. There was a reasonable amount of pain and a lack of clarity and a whole lot of pain meds, and because my hands were bandaged I couldn't really feel anything, couldn't walk and couldn't really hear much. There was a sense of isolation," said Baker, 54, in an interview in a hotel in Kilkenny, where he was appearing at a music festival.

More at

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Unlike Newport, smaller festivals keep it eclectic

Where star power isn't necessary
Unlike Newport, smaller festivals keep it eclectic
By Scott Alarik, Boston Globe Correspondent / May 18, 2008
After years dancing uncomfortably between the worlds of folk and pop, the Newport Folk Festival is reinventing itself as a full-tilt rock and pop show this summer. If New England's most stellar and storied folk event is abandoning folk, you'd think the region's folksier and less-stellar festivals must be faring even worse.

Think again. Falcon Ridge, the Northeast's premier songwriter festival, had a total attendance of 32,000 last year, up one-third from 2006. Last year's Lowell Folk Festival drew 200,000, according to city estimates, down from 220,000 in 2006. But food sales, often a better barometer at a free festival, were up 10 percent. The annual attendance for New Bedford's Summerfest has averaged 20,000 for the past four years.

Examining why these low-key, non-star-driven festivals do well, when the pop industry is in historic decline, reveals how completely folk music exists within its own economy, with vastly different business models for presenters and career models for performers.

Uber-fan Doug Ashford, a manager at Sun Life Financial who attends around 120 shows a year, has been to Newport six times but goes to Summerfest and Lowell nearly every year.

"For an event like Newport, it's all dependent on who's playing," he says. "But Summerfest and Lowell have really developed reputations for interesting, eclectic lineups; so you attend almost out of habit, knowing you're going to see something new and surprising. They're very well designed, set in small, friendly, walkable cities, offering a fun experience for a wide range of people."

When Summerfest organizers say "the more the merrier," they mean people, not ticket prices. They charge $10 a day, $15 for the weekend (with children under 12 admitted free), and make up the balance through a combination of civic and business support. The emphasis on affordability creates an entirely different vibe, according to artistic director Alan Korolenko.

More at

5/18/08 Playlist

1. The Wilders: Hey Little Darlin (Someone's Got to Pay), Free Dirt
2. Abigail Washburn: Keys to The Kingdom (The Sparrow Quartet), Nettwerk EP
3. Brooks Williams: Rich Tonight (The Time I Spend with You), Red Guitar Blue Music
4. Erica Williams: Muddy Water (Good Summer Rain), Blue Pie 0400

5. Jack Williams: The Heart of Saturday Night (Don't Let Go!), Wind River 4039
6. Gretchen Peters: Tomorrow Morning (Halcyon), Purple Crayon
7. Dave Boutette: Girl in Love (The Piccolo Heart), Embassy Hotel
8. Angel Band: cold Lonesome Down in Blackbird Creek (With Roots & Wings), Appleseed

It's Anne Dodson's birthday -- all songs from "Against The Moon," Beech Hill Music
9. Why Do You Worry
10. Life Comes In
11. Big Green Tree
12. All That You Ask Me

13. Caravan Gogh: Vertigogh (Caravan Gogh), Go-Gogh
14. Gideon Freudmann: Banjo Dreams (Sonic Surf), CelloBop
15. Andrew Calhoun & Campground: Run Mary Run (Bound to Go), Waterbug
16. The Waifs: Vermillion (Sundirtwater), Compass

17. Eliza Gilkyson: The Party's Over (Beautiful World), Red House 212
18. I See Hawks in L.A.: Ever Since the Grid Went Down (Hallowed Ground), Big Book 14
19. Capitol Steps: McCain's Campaign (Campaign and Suffering), self
20. Anne Feeney: Business News / Hallelujah, I'm A Bum (Dump The Bosses Off Your Back), self

I ran a little contest to see if anyone made note of the terrorist group mentioned in this song (!). Three called to tell me it was the SLA, Symbionese Liberation Army, and they were right.
21. Rough Shop: Golden Slumber Inn (Here Today), Perdition

22. Hayes Carll: She Left Me For Jesus (Trouble in Mind), Lost Highway
23. Allan Beswick: Jehovah's Witness at The Door (Guide Cats for The Blind), Osmosys 020/21]
24. Michael Gaither: Good God Man How Big A Car Do You Need? (Spotted Mule and Other Tales), self
25. Jefferson Pepper: Columbus Day (American Evolution), American Fallout 003

26. Andreas Vollenweider with Eliza Gilkyson: Painter's Waltz (Eolian Minstrel), SBK Records (1993)
27. Scott Ainslie: It's Gonna Rain (Thunder's Mouth), Cattail preview
28. Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands: Before The Sun Goes Down (Live), Spruce & Maple 2004
29. Dana & Susan Robinson: Cotton from The Clay ('Round My Door), Threshold 0089
The Dreaded Folk Calendar over selections from Gideon Freudmann's "Sonic Surf," CelloBop

30. Ann Wilson: Little Problems, Little Lies (Hope & Glory), Zoe
31. James McMurtry: Cheney's Toy (Just Us Kids), Lightning Rod
32. Eliza Gilkyson: Great Correction (Beautiful World), Red House 212 []
33. Gurf Morlix: With God on Our Side (Diamonds to Dust), Blue Corn 0701
34. Nonny James: Nathan and Garrett and Cody (Twilight of The Dogs), Mrs Ackroyd DOG 019
35. Les Barker: Debate (Twilight of The Dogs), Mrs. Ackroyd
36. Michelle Shocked: Study War No More (To Heaven U Ride), Mighty Sound
37. Eliza Gilkyson et al: Peace Call (Land of Milk and Honey), Red House 174

Sunday, May 11, 2008

5/11/08 Playlist

1. Rebecca Padula Band: Campfirelight (Fire & Water), self
2. Lunasa: Feabhra (The Story So Far), Compass advance 4475
3. Greg Greenway: Highway 4am [Driving] (Standing on The Side of Love), Sheen of Heat 005
4. Gretchen Peters: Thirsty (Burnt Toast & Offerings), Scarlet Letter 120653

Appearing in the area:
5. Peter Case (Café Nine 5/14): Underneath the Stars (Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John), Yep Roc 2160
6. Eilen Jewell (Café Nine, 5/16): How Long (Letters from Sinners & Strangers), Signature Sounds 2006
7. David Bromberg (Iron Horse, 5/16): It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry (Try Me One More Time), Appleseed 1099
8. Angel Band (Iron Horse, 5/16): I'll Sing This Song for You (With Roots & Wings), Appleseed 1108

Also appearing in the area:
9. David Olney (Café Nine 5/16): Stonewall (The Wheel), Loudhouse 2003
10. Jason Spooner (Club Helsinki 5/18): Hover (The Flame You Follow), self
11. Pat Donohue (Roaring Brook, 5/17): Stealin' from Chet (Radio Blues), Prairie Home Productions 1001
12. Corinne West (Mill River Bodywork 5/16): Second Sight (Second Sight), self

It's Mothers' Day – a song to a child, and lots of songs by mothers and their kids:
13. Gretchen Peters: Child of Mine (Halcyon), Purple Crayon
14. Kate & Anna McGarrigle (and daughters): Matapedia (Matapedia), Hannibal 1394
15. Nancy White with Suzy and Maddy: And I Copied It (Stickers on Fruit), Borealis 147
16. Priscilla Herdman (Sounding Board, 5/17) with Suzanna: No Telling (The Road Home), Redwing 5412

17. Peggy Seeger with Calum and Kitty and lots of others: Che Guevara (Three Score and Ten), Appleseed 1100
18. Cindy Kallet with Arthur and Gabriel and friends: Diapers by Heart (Leave the Cake in The Mailbox), Stone's Throw 3
19. Eliza Gilkyson with Cisco and Cordelia: Rare Bird (Beautiful World), Red House 212
20. Ann Mayo Muir with Christina (and Sue Trainor): Two Fine Friends (Hot Soup's "Soup Happens"), SOUPer Music

21 Linda Thompson with Teddy and Kamilla: Dear Mary (Fashionably Late), Rounder 3182
22. Margaret MacArthur with Megan: The Pucker Street Song (Vermont Ballads & Broadsides), Whetstone 01
23. Blue Murder, Norma Waterson with Eliza Carthy and others: The Land Where You Never Grow Old (No One Stands Alone), Topic 537
24. Eliza Gilkyson with Cordelia: Requiem (Paradise Hotel), Red House 187

It's Joel Rafael's birthday:
From Thirteen Stories High, Inside Recordings advance CD:
25. This Is My Country
26. Rich Man's War
27. I Ought to Know

The Dreaded Folk Calendar over selections from Pat Donohue's "Freewayman: Acoustic Guitar Solos," Bluesky 929

More concerts, plus two leftover moms:
28. The Wood Brothers (Iron Horse 5/13): Make Me Down A Pallet on Your Floor (Loaded), Blue Note 96285
29. Bruce Cockburn (Iron Horse 5/14 & 15): They Call It Democracy (You Pay Your Money and You Take Your Chance -- Live), Ryko 10435
30. The Nields with kids: All Together Singing in The Kitchen (All Together Singing in The Kitchen), self

31. Noel Paul Stookey: In These Times (single), Public Domain Foundation
32. Billy Bragg: Sing Their Souls Back Home (Mr. Love & Justice), Anti- 86712
33. I See Hawks in L.A.: In the Garden (Hallowed Ground), Big Book Records 14
34. Erica Wheeler: Good Summer Rain (Good Summer Rain), Blue Pie 0400

35. Leon Rosselson: The Third Intifada (A Proper State), Fuse Records 024
36. Anthony da Costa: Ain't Much of A Soldier (Typical American Tragedy), self
37. Eliza Gilkyson et al: Peace Call (Land of Milk and Honey), Red House 174

Sunday, May 4, 2008

5/4/08 Playlist

1. Anne Hills: Glad for The Spring (Beauty Attends – The Heartsongs of Opal Whitely), Collective Works 0502
2. Greg Brown: Spring Winds (The Live One), Red House 78
3. Claudia Schmidt: You Must Believe in Spring (Big Earful), Red House 19
4. Armor & Sturtevant: Crocuses (Spring Day), Tatema 1001

Today is the 38th anniversary of the killing of four students by National Guardsmen at Kent State University:
5. Magpie: Kent (Give Light), Sliced Bread 71185
6. CSNY: Ohio / Find the Cost of Freedom (So Far), Atlantic LP 1974

Interview with Rod Picott and Amanda Shires, recorded April 11
7. Angels and Acrobats (live)
8. Being Brave (live)
9. Drive That Devil Away (live)
10. Mercury (from forthcoming release, not yet titled)
11. Something in Spanish (live)
12. fragment of “Borrowed Car” (live)
13. Hearts Are Breakin’ (Radio promo, Amanda’s “Being Brave”)

New songs with similar ideas:
14. Eliza Gilkyson: Beautiful World (Beautiful World), Red House 212
5. I See Hawks in L.A.: Hallowed Ground (Hallowed Ground), Big Book 14
16. Eliza Gilkyson: The Party’s Over (Beautiful World), Red House 212
17. I See Hawks in L.A.: Ever Since the Grid Went Down (Hallowed Ground), Big Book 14

The Dreaded Folk Calendar over selections from Lawrence Blatt's "Fibonacci's Dream," self

Placard in a photo on the cover of a Hope Machine CD: "I can't believe we still have to protest this crap." There is much in the news of aggression / illness / control / anger / profit, all masquerading as sex: xexual assault and rape at UConn during Spring Weekend last weekend; father holds daughter sexual captive in basement, fathers 7 children; man convicted of aggravated rape on Martha's Vineyard; had previously been convicted of aggravated rape and yet only sentenced to only 4 to 6 years that time, now sentenced to 28 years; article in new New Yorker about human trafficking from Moldova, former Soviet republic, and beyond; the removal of children from the FLDS compound in Eldorado Texas a month ago because it appears that women younger than 16 (the age at which women may marry with their parents’ permission) were married to much older men in “spiritual marriages” and then impregnated as soon and as often as possible .....
19. Malvina Reynolds: The Judge Said (Ear to The Ground -- Topical Songs 1960-1978), Smithsonian Folkways 40124
20. James McMurtry: Fire Line Road (Just Us Kids), Lightning Rod 95022
21. Eliza Gilkyson: The Ballad of Yvonne Johnson (Land of Milk and Honey), Red House 174
22. Greg Brown: Every Street in Town (One Night), Coffeehouse Extempore LP
23. Eliza Gilkyson: Dream Lover (Beautiful World), Red House 212

24. Joe Crookston: Bird by Bird (able baker charlie & dog), Milagrito 78
25. Lindsay Mac: Pale Reflection (Small Revolution), self
26. Randall Williams: Draw the Line (Praying for Land), Musafir
27 Eliza Gilkyson et al: Peace Call (Land of Milk and Honey), Red House 174