Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Kate Wolf fest will be a Utah Phillips memorial

Of all the artists who are frequent performers at the Kate Wolf Music Festival, coming up June 27-29 at the Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville CA, few were as part of the festival scenery as the great Utah Phillips, who passed away two weeks at 73 after a long bout with heart disease. (I'll have more to say about the Kate Wolf lineup in another post.)

Musicians and folk music fans around the country have joined an outpouring of tributes to the folksinger, who always seemed like he came to us from an earlier time but whose songs of tramping on steam trains and organizing workers with the Wobblies continued to have relevance to our times. But few of the tributes are apt to be as heartfelt as at Kate Wolf, where Utah appeared on the main stage, in workshops and as an emcee for nine of the festival's 12 years, missing only 1999 and 2004-5, when his ailment put him out of commission.

Fortunately, Utah rebounded and was able to appear at Kate Wolf and other festivals in 2006 and 2007, giving his many fans a last chance to see him in good form on the circuit. At Strawberry Spring 2007, I got a chance to chat with him a bit, as well as enjoy his familiar repertoire one last time.

The festival is a memorial for Kate Wolf, another great deceased folksinger, with whom Phillips performed together on numerous occasions. Another of Utah's frequent partners, Rosalie Sorrells, is also a Kate Wolf regular, and can be expected to lead the remembrances along with Ani DiFranco, another past recording partner of Utah's who is one of the headliners at the upcoming festival. — Dan Ruby

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