Rosalie Sorrels is an Idaho icon. The singer/songwriter is a source of pride for the Gem State and may be even more so after the release of her latest—and 25th—album, Strangers in Another Country: The Songs of Bruce "Utah" Phillips.
Phillips was a musician and an activist, and Sorrels, now 75, and Phillips had been friends for 55 years before his death this year. When Red House Records asked her to record an album of his songs, she gladly agreed. Sorrels traveled to New York to work with renowned producer Roma Baran; Minneapolis to record with the Sorry Muthas; and Boston to work with Peggy Seeger. It was a taxing schedule but one that she spoke of not with a sense of weariness but one of accomplishment. The album includes 14 songs and some spoken word tracks in which she recites some of Phillips' favorite poetry.
Sorrels said she loved working on "Jesse's Corrido" and "Schofield Mine Disaster" and that she thinks listeners will find a real connection with "Green Rolling Hills of West Virgina," a song Phillips wrote after meeting a destitute, poverty-stricken woman who could have found an easier life elsewhere but told him the hills kept pulling her back.
Sorrels shared one ghost story about recording this album. When Michael Feldman brought his NPR show, Whad'Ya Know? to Boise this year, he asked her to perform live, and she sang Phillips' "Ashes on the Sea." The next day, a friend called to tell her Phillips' had passed away and his time of death coincided with her performance.
Thursday, Aug. 21, 7 p.m., FREE, Record Exchange, 1105 W. Idaho St., 208-344-8010. Saturday, Aug. 23, 8 p.m., $35, Stage Coach Theatre, 5296 Overland Rd., 208-342-2000.