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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year - Rob Ellen
Multi-talented Thomm Jutz has made great strides in the world of bluegrass, with both the songs he’s written and played on (some recorded in his Nashville studio) and, or produced; among those to have contact with him you can list Nanci Griffith, Otis Gibbs, Irene Kelley, Mac Wiseman, Marty Stuart, Balsam Range, Terry Baucom and the Dukes Of Drive, Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice, and a man of whom many of you might not know but should, Jefferson Ross. It was with Ross as he played an excellent supporting role (Live at The Hillbilly Haiku) I first heard a song they wrote together “Confederate Jasmine”, and it also figures here. Jutz places his own stamp on this beautifully written and most descriptive piece. Great work boys!
Jutz isn’t just your ordinary guitarist. He is the kind of guy who slots in alongside others, and invariably makes whatever he is involved in sound better. Jutz like his good friends Peter Cooper and Eric Brace he is a real team player, accolades, awards etc just happen to follow him around. Bluegrass nominations this year were particularly big.
Jutz is more than a bluegrass act he is also a mighty storyteller, and as this album testifies he’s written a bunch of them too. Most of his songs are co-writes with friends Milan Miller and Andrea Zonn plus one each with Tammy Rogers, Charley Stefl, Craig Market, Irene Kelley and Jon Weisberger. It is a smart lovingly produced package. I have yet to mention the wonderful supportive picking from Mark Fain (bass), Sierra Hull (mandolin), Justin Moses (banjo, Dobro, fiddle, harmony vocals), Andrea Zonn and Tammy Rogers (fiddle, harmony vocals) plus Cooper / Brace harmony vocals on the songs “Sometimes What Glitters Is Gold” and “Lily Of The Day”. The artwork on the CD it too is top class, and with notes from Jutz you could not ask for more. It is a co-write with Zonn that open the album “Crazy If You Let It”, and with Zonn's harmony vocals and fiddle aided by wonderful acoustic guitar and stylish Dobro the album's title-track opens the record beautifully.
On listening to “Run With The Horses” (written the day after the death of Dr. Ralph Stanley) I hear as the song opens a hint or two of the structure of Townes Van Zandt. Which isn’t such a big surprise, since the song possesses some blues colourings, and with banjo, Dobro and guitar all vying for a slot a wonderful injection of energy. Containing great beauty and grace you have his co-effort with Rogers, “Old Railroads” (Rogers both plays and sings on the track, nice work she does too, then again it is Tammy Rogers we are talking about), and there is even a trip over the pond to Ireland for his song “The Road To Galway”. He learnt the tune from the legendary Co. Clare whistle player Micho Russell. He follows the song with the superb “Lily Of The Day”, wrapped in fiddle and banjo the Market co-write is as good as it gets or you would expect. While in the sad-eyed tune “Atlanta (Please Don’t Let Me Down)” he has yet another ace up his sleeve. On ‘Lily…” his vocals remind me of a 1980s cum early, mid 1990s Dan Seals. “Atlanta (Please Don’t Let Me Down)” contains an aching blues edge as he speaks of how Nashville wore him out during the two short years he lived there, and how there is no dough in Knoxville, and how Memphis was never his kind of town. Which leaves him praying Atlanta wont let him down. Decorated in top class guitar work (fiddle, banjo etc) it is an outstanding recording. It is one of those songs that doesn’t take long to become embedded in your senses, so descriptive are his older styled lyrics. Master-class comes to mind.
Closing the 12-track album you have the fine “It Was You”, but that isn’t before he’s lay down a bunch of mighty songs (not yet listed) set to stay with the listener for a very long time. Like with many great songs there's a few here that grown on you in time. Not least among they you have “The Coast Of Carolina” as he speaks of a storm. Storms at the moment in writing are of topical nature (Hurricane Irma); bluegrass traditionalist I expect will drool over the banjo, bass, and hotly picked acoustic guitar fashioned “White Water Train”.
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