Philly songwriter, musician, and poet Dan Wriggins (of Friendship) pays tribute to Utah Phillips in five covers on a new EP, Still Is, that comes out May 7.
Born in 1935, Bruce “U. Utah” Phillips was a labor organizer and folk singer whose music featured themes of pacifism, the plight and rights of the American worker, and the “long memory,” or how we contextualize our lives with those who came before us and those who will come after. Wriggins first heard his music while living on the coast of Maine and working on a lobster boat.
“I was on a lobster boat stuffing dead herring into bait bags when I first heard ‘Enola Gay’ on the Downeast Maine community radio station WERU,” he explains. “My captain Teddy told me ‘that’s the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest.’ I’ve ever since been inspired by Utah Phillips’ clarity and courage.
“Utah cared as deeply about the future as he did about the past. I titled this EP Still Is to honor the grouchy [indignation] I hear in Utah’s voice when he answers interview questions that put folk music, labor organizing, or civil disobedience in the past tense.”
In a time of great struggle and strife, Wriggins hopes that the introduction to Utah Phillips’ music will serve as a reminder that hardships that may seem new to us have in fact been weathered before.
The single, “This Land is Not Our Land,” sees Wriggins adding onto Phillips’ revision of the Woody Guthrie standard with updated verses inspired partially by David Graeber’s “Bullshit Jobs.” Stream it below and pre-order the digital-only EP via Bandcamp. All proceeds will be donated to the People’s Fridge on 52nd Street in West Philadelphia.
Tags: Dan Wriggins, Utah Phillips