‘Cluster Flies’: Jennifer Hartswick Covers ‘Dirt’

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JamBase presents Cluster Flies, a covers compilation reimagining Phish’s album Farmhouse, complete with bonus songs and revamped tracklist. The limited-edition 3LP release was mastered by engineer Joe Lambert and includes custom artwork and a poster created by longtime Phish collaborator Jim Pollock. A pre-order is underway now through May 3 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. Visit www.clusterflies.com for purchasing information as well as full album credits and tracklist details.

Each of the songs on Cluster Flies will be featured via daily episodes of The JamBase Podcast with interviews with the musician that recorded the cover. Today’s episode features Jennifer Hartswick’s cover of “Dirt,” which premieres today on SiriusXM Phish Radio. Explore additional Cluster Flies podcast episodes here.

Phish’s song, “Dirt,” is the seventh track on Farmhouse. The song was co-written by Trey Anastasio and lyricst Tom Marshall, with credit also going to Scott Herman. Herman has written portions of at least 18 Phish songs, including the fellow Cluster Flies tracks “Heavy Things” and “Vultures.”

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Trey and Tom created a demo recording of “Dirt” during a writing session held in early 1997 at a rented farmhouse in rural Vermont, that later appeared on the 2000 collection of demos Trampled By Lambs & Pecked By The Dove. Shortly after making the original demo, Anastasio took the song public at a performance on May 21, 1997, at Club Toast in Burlington, Vermont. The one-off concert billed as New York! saw Anastasio joined by Phish bassist Mike Gordon, trombonist James Harvey (of the Cosmic Country Horns), guitarist Paul “Pistol Stamen” Jaffee (The Bunny radio station DJ) and The Pants guitarist/vocalist Tom Lawson (who would later join Trey in April 1998 for the one-off 8 Foot Fluorescent Tubes show). Also making its debut was the future Phish song, “Saw It Again.”

Phish brought the batch of new tunes across the Atlantic for their Europe Summer Tour 1997, debuting 13 originals over the tour’s two-night opening stand in Dublin, Ireland. “Dirt” was first played on night two, during the first set on June 14.

The second and third performances of “Dirt” occurred on June 6, 1997, at a pre-tour warmup concert held at Phish’s at-the-time drum tech Pete Carini and tour manager Brad Sands’ home in Charlotte, Vermont. Several songs co-written by Trey and Tom during those early 1997 writing retreats were played that night, with “Dirt” and others showing up in each set. By the end of 1997, “Dirt” racked up more than a quarter of its 70 performances by Phish to date. Played just four times the following year, “Dirt” appeared on 10 setlists in 1999 and on another nine leading up to their first hiatus that started in late-2000.

“Dirt” was played five times when Phish returned from hiatus in 2003 but not at all in 2004, the year that started a second hiatus lasting through early-2009. Since coming back that second time, “Dirt” tends to surface at least once a year (though not at all in 2014), but never more than a few times.

The only artist to appear on both Farmhouse and Cluster Flies, vocalist/trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick led an impressive group of musicians through a cover of “Dirt.” Hartswick, who is a member of the Trey Anastasio Band, was joined by renowned bassist Christian McBride, fellow TAB memember, trombonist Natalie Cressman, Star Kitchen keyboardist Rob Marscher and The Nth Power drummer Nikki Glaspie and guitarist Nick Cassarino.

The Cluster Flies “Dirt” cover premieres today on SiriusXM Phish Radio on an episode of host Ari Fink’s Headbands featuring Jennifer Harstwick. In addition to premiering the Cluster Flies version of “Dirt,” Jennifer will present music from other artists she’s been vibing on lately. Tune in to SiriusXM Phish Radio today, Thursday, April 22 at 7 p.m. ET to listen to Jennifer’s episode of Headbands.

JHa recently spoke to JamBase’s David Onigman for today’s episode of The JamBase Podcast. The multi-talented musician talked about working with Anastasio and Phish — including contributing to Farmhouse, her time as a member of TAB, assembling the outstanding collective of musicians to cover “Dirt” and more.

Stream the “Dirt” Cluster Flies episode of The JamBase Podcast below or via all major podcast services including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Google Podcast: