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The River of Folk

American history is rooted in the spirit of revolution, and Fast Rattler wants you to remember that. Brendan Phillips sings: “Take it to the streets; the streets are where we win.”

In the spirit of his father, labor activist and folk musician Bruce “Utah” Phillips (also known as the “Golden Voice of the Great Southwest”), Phillips is passing on a tradition of storytelling through his very own style of American folk music. But don’t be mistaken; Phillips and band are not a tribute to his father. Phillips, with the help of his Portland-based, genre-bending musical troupe, Fast Rattler, is developing a sound that is both a revival of classic folk tradition and an inspiring new-age interpretation of a storied staple of American culture. 

“We like to use the phrase ‘quicksilver’ Americana folk because it connotes morphing and changing,” Phillips says. “We’re not afraid to play traditionally based old time and folk music but we also can drift into more Mumford and Sons or Wilco.” 

Recently, Fast Rattler was given the opportunity to contribute their track, “Take It To The Streets,” to the Occupy This Album project sharing the roster with Willie Nelson, Thievery Corporation and more. “We definitely don’t stray far from social commentary and progressive messages,” he says. “Just like my father, and so many other folk artists, we definitely draw on the strength and power of social movements for material for songs but also because that’s what we believe. I believe strongly in music as a way to convey our history.”

Although Phillips is working on a few solo projects, Fast Rattler hopes to lay down another record later this year. “My father always used to say that folk music is a river and it continually flows and you can go to the bank of the river and take from it but you have to give back. That’s the ethos we run with.”

Fast Rattler plays with Low Tide Drifters 8pm Thursday, March 7, at Cozmic; $6.