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Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco
The Past Didn't Go Anywhere
Righteous Babe Records

Northern Californian folk singer and storyteller Utah Phillips and independent New York punk folk songwriter Ani DiFranco have teamed to produce an unusual collaboration. What makes their collaboration unusual is that they did not work together to write songs or even record together, but rather DiFranco took hours of Phillips' stories recorded on tape, digitized them, and then composed original music to accompany those included here. The result is an album where the music brings the collected stories together as a whole and one where the music gives new life to Phillips' words, making them more accessible to an audience who may not be accustomed to listening for music without instruments. This is not to take away from Phillips' words. As with any good storyteller, Phillips offers remembrances and reflections taken from over sixty years of experience, whether it be talking to his teenage son about his time as a soldier during the Korean War in Korea; observing that you have to Mess With People to keep life interesting; or, in Anarchy, recalling an old mentor's outlook on laws: " . . . good people don't need 'em and bad people don't obey 'em, so what use are they?"

For those familiar with DiFranco's work, there might be some trepidation. Gone are her assaultive guitar playing and biting, insightful lyrics. Instead one is presented with an album that defies easy musical categorization; an album referred to somewhat in jest as "neo-ambient, post-traditional folk-hop hip-speak" by its label. But however you classify it, this is an album that shows that our elders do have something to say if we just take out the time to listen, for they have not always been our elders and sometimes they know exactly where we are coming from.

Copyright © 1996 J. A. Gilbert e-mail address

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