Portland, OR’s Fast Rattler made its debut on the 2009 Grammy-nominated album “Singing Through the Hard Times: A Tribute to Utah Phillips,” which included artists like Emmylou Harris, Ani DiFranco, Pete Seeger and Tom Paxton paying their respects at the passing of one of Folk music’s activist heroes.
Fronted by Utah’s son Brendan, Fast Rattler dug deep into Utah’s extensive catalogue, crafting their own versions of his songs and setting his poems to music. Fast Rattler’s full-length debut “Linger On: Celebrating the Songs of Utah Phillips,” was released in 2011 to wide acclaim, as they toured throughout the US and Canada, earning slots at major folk festivals including the Kate Wolf Memorial Folk Festival.
The band’s follow-up EP, "Hands on the Plow,” focuses on original material and new arrangements of traditional folk songs. While Utah's music will always be a part of Fast Rattler’s repertoire, the band has won audiences over with their own original material and renditions of cherished classics. Most significantly, Fast Rattler has been invited to contribute an original track to the upcoming “Occupy This Album,” a compilation of songs inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, featuring artists from Willie Nelson and Steve Earle to Third Eye Blind and Thievery Corporation.
SOUND AND FORMAT
The members of Fast Rattler are songwriting vagabond troubadours, virtuosic instrumentalists and collectors of old songs. Distinguished by versatility and a reverence for Utah’s legacy – the ensemble easily shape shifts in order to bring the music to as many listening situations as possible.
• As a six-piece ensemble…Fast Rattler weaves vocal harmonies with banjo, fiddle, guitars, and pedal steel, anchored by a rock ‘n’ roll rhythm section. They weave a musical tapestry that brings audiences to their feet and melts their hearts with stories of disaster, struggle and love lost. Blending traditional American folk, bluegrass, Irish and Gypsy music with elements of jazz, swing, and rock, their performance evidences a genre-bending, quicksilver grace that nods to forebears ranging from Pete Seeger and Dave Van Ronk to Tom Waits and Wilco.
• As a 5-piece string band…Fast Rattler drops the drums and swaps the electric bass for an upright and goes acoustic. The energy and dynamism remains – whether performing with or without a PA – which allows them to play anywhere from more intimate venues to barn dances to street corners.
• Brendan can perform solo or add members to accompany him (duo, trio)…here the performance focuses on the stories behind Utah’s songs. Brendan also shares original material and draws from the treasure trove of American folk classics.
In their nimble approach, Fast Rattler embodies Utah’s vision - that folk music is a river in constant flux, to be added to and taken from, but always poured back – so it can flow downstream to the next generation.
"While Fast Rattler mines the past for its explosive sound, its music is anything but a direct tribute. Phillips began playing music influenced by Nirvana, Pavement and indie punk rock and created a sound all his own. This includes everything from traditional folk and bluegrass to pangs of modern rock thrown into a sonic stew that is at once grounded in traditional folk and streamlined into intricate arrangements that appeal to fans of both traditional and current music."- A.P. Kryza, Forest Grove News-Times
In 2006, Fast Rattler played to a capacity audience at Portland’s Aladdin Theater for the annual Winterfolk Festival. In 2007, they joined Utah at the Vancouver Folk Festival, playing the songs while Utah told the stories. After Utah passed away, Fast Rattler returned to the Vancouver Festival to perform as part of a Utah Phillips memorial.
"I had never heard Brendan sing at all. He was playing my 1935 Gibson that I had loaned him, and there he was with a full band, doing these songs I had practically forgotten...I wasn't just a little impressed, I was knocked down at the time and attention he put into putting these songs together." -Utah Phillips.
In 2011, Fast Rattler played at the annual Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival along side acts like Mavis Staples, Great American Taxi, and Los Lobos. Since the release of their debut, Fast Rattler has played on stages large and small all over Oregon, Washington and California.
LINEAGE & MEMBERS
Fast Rattler recognizes song and music as a way to build a better a world. Simple stories with simple melodies have the power to make people think and remember. As Utah said, “The long memory is the most radical idea in America.” The power of his songs and the human concerns of his songs and stories, teach us to see where we have come from and envision a world of possibilities.
The members of Fast Rattler hold this belief and are dedicated to sharing, collecting, and writing music in an effort to help build a better world.
• Brendan Phillips – Guitar, Banjo, Vocals
Brendan Phillips, son of Utah Phillips, is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and arranger. He grew up listening to his father’s music and the songs/stories of the American folk tradition around campfires and backstage at festivals and venues across the country. He began to perform with his father in 2004 accompanying him on stage with musical saw and guitar. Shortly thereafter, as a way to bring his fathers music to new audiences, Brendan formed Fast Rattler. The band, initially, steeped itself in all things Utah, arranging his songs for band format and hitting the road to share the music with audiences large and small. In 2006, Fast Rattler joined Utah on stage at the Vancouver Folk Festival where they played the songs while Utah told the stories.
“…Brendan Phillips has clearly inherited his father’s stature and stage presence, not to mention a book-worth of his forgotten songs.”
Kim Ruhl-Seattle Sound Magazine, 2008
After Utah passed, Brendan moved to Portland, Oregon and assembled a new line-up of players to write original songs, arrange Utah's songs, and to learn and arrange songs pulled from the vast catalogue of the American folk tradition. Brendan and Fast Rattler made their recording debut on 2009's Grammy-nominated "Singing Through The Hard Times: A Tribute to Utah Phillips." Returning to the studio in 2011, the band recorded its debut full length record "Linger On: Celebrating the Songs of Utah Phillips." In support of its release, Brendan toured with the band heavily in Oregon, Washington and California including a stop at the annual Kate Wolf Memorial Folk Festival.
In January of 2012, Brendan was invited to share the stage with Peter Yarrow. He opened for Peter and was thrilled when Peter asked him to join him on stage for the encore, playing banjo on “If I had a Hammer” “Blowing in the Wind” and “This Land is Your Land”.
Brendan continues to write, arrange and tour with the band and has started to branch out and do more solo performances. He’s shared bills with a host of other artists including Peter Yarrow, Kate Macleod, Kat Eggleston, Tracy Grammer and Jim Page. Most recently, he teamed up with Bodhi Busick (a resident of Nevada City CA, virtuosic guitar player and long time protégé and comrade of Utah’s) to arrange and record Fast Rattler’s new EP. Brendan and Bodhi are currently hard at work recording their own duo record scheduled to be released later in 2012.
• Matt Berger – Drums
Matt is seasoned veteran on the Portland music scene. He currently splits his duties between Fast
Rattler and a number of other celebrated acts including Laura Gibson (www.lauragibsonmusic.com) and the Portland Cello Project (www.portlandcelloproject.com).Matt is a versatile drummer and skilled arranger equally capable of infusing hard-hitting energy and subtly brilliant percussion.
• Mub Fractal, a.k.a Peter Thatch – Bass
Bay Area transplant, via Olympia, WA, mub Fractal is a believer in music, a composer, arranger and dancer who likes to go barefoot on stage. Beyond Fast Rattler's collage of Americana, mub plays bass and arranges for the fiery, garage soulsters Brownish Black (www.brownishblack.com).
• Drew De Man – Guitar, Accordion, Pedal Steel, Vocals
Drew de Man came to Portland via Athens, GA. Son of a poet and raised among writers, he naturally gravitated to music and writing. Taking up banjo, harmonica, mandolin and accordion, one by one, he spent his youth learning a vast catalog of songs classic, ancient and obscure. His first band, No River City (http://www.tinymixtapes.com/music-review/no-river-city-our-north-dakota) charted on college radio throughout the US and Canada as well as Europe. They toured the country several times over, and garnered enthusiastic press in No Depression, Magnet, Harp and the Village Voice. His most recent release "Vamonos pa'l monte” is a stew of psychedelic rockin' Americana and songwriter fare released under the moniker Old Custer (http://drewdemanoldcuster.bandcamp.com/). Drew’s Influences include Bob Dylan, Tom
Petty, The Grateful Dead, Chuck Prophet, Jim Croce, Townes Van Zandt and Ryan Adams but he brings his own unique style to the songs of Fast Rattler.
• Jennifer Marie Rawling – Vocals, Percussion
Born five blocks from Lake Michigan in the working-class town of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Rawling's love of music started early, influenced by her mother playing guitar and singing traditional folk and country songs. 2011 has proven to be quite a break-out year for the talented vocalist, as she spent extensive time in the recording studio with groups Fast Rattler, Horse Feathers as well as self-producing a debut album with partner and band mate Basho Parks. Rawling's vocal quality has drawn notable comparisons to Natalie Merchant, Sandy Denny, and Gillian Welch. Her songs are intuitive and real, felt in the bones and tasted in the air, punctuated by a unique truth only old souls can possess. She is fond of most flora. (www.jennrawling.com)
• Basho Parks – Fiddle, Vocals
Born to hippie idealists in an adobe hut seven miles shy of Colorado's Mt. Blanca, Basho Watson Parks comes to us from humble origins. From symphonies to punk bands; bluegrass barn storms to Roma-Gypsy trios; organic electronica chamber music to classic country; his twenty-six years of string-playing experience span a huge swath of musical genres. A session musician in the Portland area for the past five years, in 2011 Basho recorded with On the Stairs, Fast Rattler, Sara Jackson Holman, and Jenn Rawling. Basho plays the violin, viola, mandolin, ukulele, and guitar, providing backing vocals on some songs. He has an affinity for most fauna.
Drew De Man - Lead Guitar, Pedal Steel, Accordian, and back-up vocals
Basho Parks - fiddle and vocals
Jenn Rawlings - Vocals, Guitar, song writing
Peter Thatch - Bass
Brendan Phillips - Banjo, Vocals, Guitar
Matt Berger - Drums
Bodhi Busick - guitar and vocals
"Singing through the hard times: A tribute to Utah Phillips"
"Linger On: Celebrating the Songs of Utah Phillips"
"Take It To The Streets"
Streaming our website at:
Cuts and on air performances from "Linger On" can be heard at: KVMR, Nevada City, KLCC, Eugene, KRVM, Eugene, KPIG, Santa Cruz, KBOO, Portland, KZME, Portland, KXJZ, Sacramento.
Prince of the Rails
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“…Phillips has clearly inherited his father’s stature and stage presence, not to mention a book-wort...“…Phillips has clearly inherited his father’s stature and stage presence, not to mention a book-worth of his forgotten songs.” Kim Ruhl-Seattle Sound Magazine, 2008
Building Those Family (Railroad) Ties
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While Fast Rattler mines the past for its explosive sound, its music is anything but a direct tribut...While Fast Rattler mines the past for its explosive sound, its music is anything but a direct tribute. Phillips began playing music influenced by Nirvana, Pavement and indie punk rock and created a sound all his own. This includes everything from traditional folk and bluegrass to pangs of modern rock thrown into a sonic stew that is at once grounded in traditional folk and streamlined into intricate arrangements that appeal to fans of both traditional and current music.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.