Josh Phillips Folk Festival
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Josh Phillips Folk Festival


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""Wicker" Josh Phillips Folk Festival"

Perhaps the first thing to mention here is the outstanding engineering of Wicker, which boasts an extremely flat recording...which is not, as the common understanding would have it in other things, a negative critique at all but rather a high compliment conveying how perfectly every single note was caught exactly as played. This isn't the same as audio verite, which is just the capture of a performance as-is, but rather a testament to the recordist's art. The sonic field is completely transparent and three-dimensional and the listener feels as though he or she could shake hands with the singer without leaving the parlor. Perhaps the most striking fact is that the 13-song menu was caught by six different sets of hands yet sounds completely like one top pro at, say, Sony or RCA.

The group name, Folk Festival, though, might at first be a bit baffling, as it isn't the encodation of a live weekend gig thrown by the singer but rather a reference to the potpourri of styles and modes contained in this wide-open CD. There's soul, rock, reggae, blues, folk, and bayou but it's all of the same cloth, Phillips being an incredibly adept composer and highly engaging singer. More, his base backing quintet is flawless, as are the dozen sessioneers, all joining together for a set of performances that would set Clive Davis' or Peter Asher's mouths a-drool.

Not a moment of this CD is less than sparkling, fully invested, happy, thoughtful, earthy, and rockin'. Phillips has vocal grit flanked by an engaging way with ornamenting his compositions. The reggae interlude, Pictures of Strangers, boasts a swirly jazz element reminiscent of mid-period Stevie Wonder circa Fulfillingness First Finale, and the entire CD is akin to a review of the last 50 years of roots n' rock musics polished up to diamantine brilliance. This guy deserves top drawer treatment and should be going places. We need music like this more than ever, what with the K-Tel superficiality of the charts and the slowly departing presence of past greats shuffling off the mortal coil. The Band, Waits, Dr. John, Taj Mahal, and a score other giant talents find themselves revivified in Phillips' music and now-wailing now-introspective earthiness.
Track List:

* You are Loved
* For Today
* Be for You
* Little Something Baby
* Morning Song
* Well Baby
* Movin On

* You are not Who You are Cause You Speak
* It Ain't Easy
* Easy Ways
* Swimming with my Lover
* Steam Powered Aeroplane
* Wash Away the Day

All songs written by Josh Phillips except "Steam Powered Aeroplane (John Hartford).

Edited by: David N. Pyles
- A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange

"Josh Phillips Folk Festival - Wicker"

Josh Phillips is joined by a huge cast of players for his first "solo" offering, Wicker. Having parted ways with his former group, Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band, Phillips finds a comfortable space here to showcase his earthy, arresting vocals and poignant songwriting. He's ably accompanied by musicians that lend everything from horns to vibraphone, banjo, and djembe, turning his personal songs into ensemble pieces with a wide variety of moods and textures.

There's a lot going on in these songs, and they all have distinctive flavors enabled by the cavalcade of musicians. The disc kicks off with the wistful "You Are Loved," showcasing Phillips alone, but soon moves into the personable "For Today," which is peppered with horns, the backing vocals of Suzanna Baum, and wily synthesized sounds. "Be For You" is a smoky, finger-snapping tune encircled in ringing vibraphone and spacy synths that is as catchy as they come, and Phillips' singing is subtly full of hope. Sean Donnelly lends some rollicking piano to the shuffling "Little Something Baby" has a Dixieland atmosphere bolstered by the Asheville Horns' contributions of tuba and sax. "Morning Song" harvests golden vibes from fields of blooming reggae, with Nick Hope's pounding drums (also featured on an irie cover of John Hartford's "Steam Powered Aeroplane") and a squalling sax solo by Greg Hollowell. Hypnotic Kora tones open the mind on "Well Baby," allowing the song's sensual bass line and vocals to penetrate the listener's spinal control center.

Wicker is comprised of one flawlessly constructed, vibrantly performed song after another, through the straight-up funk-pop of "Movin' On" and "It Ain't Easy," the fractured folk of "You Are Not Who You Are Cause You Speak," and the slow, smoldering sexiness of "Easy Ways." While his contributions to the Booty Band will be missed, Wicker simply had to happen. There's an awful lot of wonderful ideas flying around in Phillips' head, and it took an army of diverse players to make them a reality.

--Bryan Rodgers - Homegrown Music Network

"CD Review: Josh Phillips Folk Festival"

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OCTOBER 29, 2008
CD Reviews: Josh Phillips Folk Festival



The name of this band is a bit of a misnomer. While it certainly hits the “festival vibe” squarely on the head, the eclectic nature of styles goes miles beyond folk. Comprised of members from some of the area’s favorite bands such as Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, Toubab Krewe, Acoustic Syndicate, STRUT, Laura Reed and Deep Pocket and Blue Rags, Josh Phillips Folk Festival runs the musical gamut. The opening track (“You are Loved”) greets the ears with a quiet piano and vocal number that immediately struck me as being a collaboration between Tom Waits and Rufus Wainwright, and from there it goes careening about the spectrum. Soul, hip-hop and reggae rub elbows with emotive acoustic guitar confessions, and even a tune that sounds straight out of an Irish pub. The sheer depth of the “musical bench” is evident in every track. While the number and variety of instruments is expansive, I was particularly taken with the female vocals, the targeted use of the horn section, and the funky keyboard stylings. Recorded at Echo Mountain and Altamont studios in Asheville, the production value is top-notch and allows for these great musicians to shine. Pick this one up.
- Bold Life

"Josh Phillips leads his N.C. project to new heights Festive, soulful, and sane: The Josh Phillips Folk Festival"

Josh Phillips leads his N.C. project to new heights
Festive, soulful, and sane: The Josh Phillips Folk Festival
by T. Ballard Lesemann

Life rolls at a steady pace for N.C. songwriter and bandleader Josh Phillips these days, and he couldn't be happier about it. Fronting a now-solid ensemble of musicians under the band name The Josh Phillips Folk Festival, he gladly avoids the fevered pitch, jagged tour schedules, and hectic pace of Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band, his previous musical collaboration.

Phillips sang and played guitar for five years with the Asheville-based Booty Band — an act that still enjoys a notorious reputation for flamboyance, stage energy, and party vibes.

After a childhood on Long Island, Phillips moved to Charleston when he was 14. After attending the Academic Magnet School, he attended college in Asheville, where Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band was in the works, and regularly embarked on small, financially successful tours across the Southeast and down the Gulf Coast and back. The constant travel eventually grinded Phillips' spirit down, however.

"We had different ideas on how we should tour," Phillips says of his final year with the band — a period when they would regularly tour for a few days at a time, return home for a few days, then do it all over again. "I felt like I was always the one holding them back because I thought the weekend warrior thing is not the way to go. Half of my life was really different from the other half. You have to do what's good for you."

Phillips stepped away from the band and started compiling his own musical ideas and song sketches for what would eventually take shape as the Folk Festival. The band formed (very loosely) just under two years ago. Last year, they released Wicker — a brilliant debut studio album recorded in three quick sessions at Asheville's acclaimed Echo Mountain Studio. In its own accidental way, Wicker captures a lot of the style and sound of the mountain town's diverse music scene.

"It kind of happened haphazardly," Phillips says of the Folk Festival's earliest collaborations. "I had no intention of breaking from the Booty Band at the time. I'm always writing songs, and I had a bunch that didn't fit the mold of what the Booty Band was doing. What really pushed me to do the solo thing was having a small window of time to do three quick sessions at Echo Mountain. It developed in the studio. I'd never really played with most of the musicians before. I taught them the songs in the studio after giving the demos of the song ideas. I think that's part of the reason Wicker came out so well — it was totally raw and made up on the spot."

But Wicker doesn't sound very raw in the sense of musical ideas and technical execution. It sounds thoroughly thought-out, carefully arranged, and skillfully executed — especially the smooth organ sounds, additional brass, and extra-worldly percussion. Some songs are reggae-tinged and groove at an even pace. Others are organ-driven soul-funk gems in the vein of the mid '70s hits in the Motown and Stax catalogs. There are even a few acoustic guitar-based folk-rockers in the album's songlist as well.

This late-summer trip is the first major tour for Phillips' new band. The Folk Festival spent last week supporting Boston fusion/funk band Dopapod in the New York and New England area. The bands switch places on the bill for some of the Southern shows, including Wednesday's gig at the Pour House.

"It's going really well on the road," says Phillips. "It's awesome. This isn't the first project for most of the players. We've all been through it. We're older and more responsible. We're all smarter for it. This project is going better than ones we've all done in the past, so we're really excited about it."

The current Folk Festival lineup features bassist Elijah Cramer, drummer Nick Hope, and guitarists Casey Cramer and Rob Russell. Special guest vocalist Debrissa McKinney and organist/keyboardist Ryan Burns — both of Asheville band Laura Reed & Deep Pocket — are on board for this tour as well.

"Actually we haven't toured heavily together until this trip," he says. "We did mostly weekend things here and there, and we did a little run with 2-Live Crew, and a little run when Wicker first came out. When I left Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band, I had it in me that I didn't want to be a touring band anymore, and I didn't want to be on the road all the time. We usually said 'no' instead of 'yes' to gigs, and the prerequisite for us taking a gig was us being super-excited about it.

"Now that we're finally in the mood where we want to tour, we'll try to go out for a few weeks at a time and travel more intelligently," he adds. "We want to have a smart plan, and make the band be a part of our life, rather than having the band be our life."
- Charleston City Paper

"Bandleader has his roots firmly planted in positivity"

Bandleader has his roots firmly planted in positivity
By Olivia Pool, Special to The Post and Courier
Thursday, September 3, 2009

You can vote for the Josh Phillips Folk Festival at for them to get on Jamcruise in January. Voting ends Sept. 15.

With roots in Charleston and Asheville, kicking it reggae style with a Southern twist, the Josh Phillips Folk Festival really is a traveling, touring festival of feel-good music that will stick with you long after the show. Preview had some fun with Josh with a funny interview angle, comparing the band with a tree.

What kind of tree you ask? "One with a family of monkees living in it," of course.

Q: Tell us about your roots.

A: I grew up in Long Island, N.Y., and moved to Charleston when I was 14. It was actually the move that got me into music. I didn't really know anyone, so I became very diligent in practicing guitar. I also got into hand drumming when I discovered the Monday night drum circles at the old Horse and Cart Cafe. I was 15. Some older friends of mine from the Academic Magnet took me to my first festival, the LEAF Festival near Asheville. That became the center of my love for music and I would never miss a LEAF for years to come. I absorbed a love for all kinds of music from African drumming to Appalachian old-timey tunes to contra dance.

Q: What sounds make you shake your limbs?

A: My musical tastes definitely go in phases. I grew up on Pearl Jam, Beastie Boys, P-Funk. I went through a NOFX, Operation Ivy, Fugazi phase; a Phish and Grateful Dead phase; and tons of others. I did my senior thesis in high school on folk music and spent a lot of time listening to traditional folk songs, Appalachian fiddle music and things of that nature. That led me to West African Folk music and specifically a guy named Ali Farka Toure. Recently I've been really into Dr. Dog, Wilco and moreorganic rock that focuses on quality song writing.

Q: When you stand in the yoga Tree Pose, what things bring you peace and clarity amongst the busy world of a touring musician?

A: I need to be in a meditative state to write music. I don't feel good about writing lyrics unless it comes from somewhere deeper. Creating personal space on the road is important. Headphones are key. A bike is great too, as it provides personal transportation and you get to explore a town better. I also have a little hand recorder that I carry everywhere. I'll usually beatbox something and hum a melody line, as melody lines are the most important things to a song. Sometimes I pair my writings with these lines and sometimes the writings are inspired by the lines.

Q: If you could grow anywhere, where would you grow? Why?

A: I am a huge fan of Asheville. I own a home there now and plan on staying for a long time. If I move again, I would want to check out somewhere in South America or Europe. I firmly believe though that it doesn't matter as much where you are as long as you enjoy the people around you. The folks in this band are all amazing, solid, kind hearted people and I'm excited to be growing with them.

Q: Of course, you're growing bigger and stronger. What are your aspirations?

A: This is our first real tour and Charleston will be our first date in the Southeast leg of the tour, then we're off to the Chicago Blues & Bluegrass Festival, then a short stint out west. We are also 1 of 10 bands that can possibly be voted on to Jamcruise in January. Right now we are in the lead but still working hard to make sure that by the end of the contest we have the most votes. You can vote for the Josh Phillips Folk Festival at Voting ends Sept. 15.
- Post & Courier


Wicker (2008) - CD



Josh Phillips Folk Festival have been gaining a veritable army of fans that range from the youngest musical listeners, to seasoned long time traditional music fans. With the release of their first studio album, Wicker, Phillips has truly provided a strong testament to his ability to effortlessly capture generations worth of musical evolution, and traverse years of cultural dilution, bringing the listener back to the very source of roots, folk, soul, r & b, rock and reggae.