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Performances Song History

The Inlaw Josie Wales

Also Known As: Purple Hugh, Minestrone

Music: Anastasio

Vocals: Instrumental

Original Artist: Trey Anastasio

Albums: Farmhouse, Live Phish 03, Seis de Mayo

Debut: 1999-09-09

Historian: Erik Swain, Phillip Zerbo (pzerbo)

This acoustic instrumental has changed more in its title than in its performances since it first surfaced on Trey’s 1999 solo tour. During that tour’s first show in Ann Arbor, MI, Trey said he did not have a moniker for the song and the first fan that posted the setlist to the Internet could name it. This honor went to Jesse Jarnow and Ali McDowell. “In deference to Ali’s misreading of the word ‘instrumental’ on my setlist, we hereby request that the tune be named ‘Minestrone,’” Jesse wrote on phish.net.

But the next night in Indianapolis, Trey decided he would call the song “Purple Hugh” – as in a guy named “Hugh” rather than “hues” and colors. This lasted all of six days; on 5/10/99 in Asheville, NC, Trey joked that he felt guilty about breaking his promise and resumed calling it “Minestrone.”

It began life as a Phish song on 9/9/99 in Vancouver, the first show of that year’s fall tour. It was no longer a completely solo effort by Trey; the others added minimal accompaniment. It surfaced on three more occasions that year, and all four times it served as a breather after an intense jam, following “Ghost” on 9/9, “Sand” on 12/13, “First Tube” on 12/18 and “Crosseyed & Painless” on 12/31.

The title issue was not resolved yet, however. During the Farmhouse sessions the band simply referred to it as “Acoustic,” according to list of songs being considered for the album (as seen in a photograph published in the summer, 2000 Döniac Schvice). More importantly, they were able to entice legendary musicians Béla Fleck and Jerry Douglas to contribute banjo and dobro, respectively, to the studio recording. 

Trey finally announced the official title on 2/5/00 during his solo performance at the Tibet House Benefit at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Why did he choose “The Inlaw Josie Wales,” a pun on the Clint Eastwood western The Outlaw Josey Wales? “The Inlaw Josie Wales is a much friendlier guy than the outlaw Josey Wales is,” he explained in an interview with SonicNet. “In the movie, there’s lots of drama and gun-fighting. In the mental movie of ‘Inlaw Josie Wales,’ the guy comes over, hangs out and has lunch. The tune was written, and Béla Fleck and Jerry Douglas were in town and wanted to see the barn, so they came over and we did it.”

The song’s new prominence was underscored by its placement as the first song of the encore on 5/21/00 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, Phish’s first show after the release of Farmhouse, and it continued to crop up regularly on the summer 2000 tour.

“The Inlaw Josie Wales” has not been performed by Phish since "Phish 1.0" but the song remains a fixture in Trey’s solo projects. While most often performed solo, acoustic (see 10/30/05, 11/18/05, or 12/31/06), for unique performances check out Trey's gigs with the Vermont Youth Orchestra String Quartet (2/2/01, 2/4/01, and 7/15/02), or with the full New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall on 9/12/09. Finally, check out the version on Trey’s 2004 release Seis de Mayo, this time with The Ying Quartet.

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