About five years ago I was sitting around with a group of good friends, all of whom were first rate musicians, talking about another musician, Utah Phillips. At the time Utah was ill, and folksingers around the country were putting benefits together to help pay his expenses. I’ve always like that about the folk music community – it may be a tough way to make a living, but it’s a real community, and we take care of each other.
I floated the idea that maybe we could put together a CD of some of us singing Utah’s old songs, and within about 30 minutes we had our first seven tracks spoken for. Over the next year, I spent much of my spare time working with dear friends Kendall and Jacqui Morse, engineering wizard Charlie Pilzer, and the good folks at Ani Difranco’s Righteous Babe Records to put together a two CD set honoring the life and music of Utah Phillips – Singing Through the Hard Times.
Utah never lived to see the final product, but he knew it was happening and was grateful. His death that May left us all in tears, but it was a comfort that he left the world knowing his music would continue, and grow, even after he was gone.
One of the good friends at that gathering was Will Brown – one of the best and most unassuming musicians and human beings I know. Will prefers to work with other folks when he sings, so he asked Cindy Kallet and Grey Larsen to join him in the most beautiful and haunting version of Utah’s “Going Away” I have ever heard.
Last week I discovered Will’s recording had been made into a video, and with Will’s permission, I share it with you. It’s a beautiful piece of work, simple and elegant – just like the song and just like Will’s arrangement of it.
You may want a hankie for this one. It’s a thing of beauty.