The second collaboration between a loquacious, 60-something activist / singer and a fierce, 20-something acoustic punk priestess is not your average folk record. But then, longtime pacifist Phillips and his edgy young pal DiFranco are not your average folkies. FELLOW WORKERS is a bold and experimental follow-up to 1996's THE PAST DIDN'T GO ANYWHERE, where DiFranco essentially remixed Philips's old-timer orations. Now, Phillips's tales of the history of the American labor movement are backed up by the impassioned, improvisational musical counterpoint of DiFranco and her band. The humorous, pointed tales gain movement and dimension from the music, shining most brightly on "The Most Dangerous Woman in America" (about labor activist Mother Jones) and on the workers' anthem "Bread and Roses." The collection of songs, stories, poetry, jokes, and spur-of-the moment improvisation was recorded before a live audience at Kingsway Studio, housed in a 19th-century building in New Orleans's French Quarter. Soul Asylum
's Dave Pirner was moved enough to kick in on trumpet, and Howard Zinn (author of A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES) contributed the album's liner notes. But the response of the audience -- the laughter and cheers -- really makes clear what it is that these two inventive and ideologically committed performers have created. FELLOW WORKERS, more than an album, is a project that taps folk music's primal role: It connects people -- emotionally, philosophically -- with their past.