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East-Nashville singer-songwriters Eric Brace, Peter Cooper and Thomm Jutz haven’t just got together to make this record, but they are friends and perform together whenever the opportunity presents itself. Lovingly, they shape the lyrics and with a simple authentic feel plus a built-in awareness of what is worth talking about. Our heritage, and memories of people who are no longer with us worth sharing, and in some cases regularly champion. All is done in an unassuming fashion, without a hint or need to name drop of do things because it’s in vogue or for monetary reward. But it is nice to be able to afford dressing on their sandwich every once in a while.
All songs are written by the trio (Cooper and Jutz are assisted by a friend or two in Kim Richey, Fred Knobloch and Robert Hicks) as the boys speak of the making of whiskey, Jerry Lee Lewis, lost towns (flooded to make a Nashville lake), John Hartford and the likes of Willie Nelson, Paul Buskirk and others as the songs, and music provided by their respective acoustic guitars take the listener from one comfortable seat to another. I say seat, because, opposed to chair it is a far more appropriated term since a seat can be anywhere. By a peaceful lake, football stadium, park bench, train or bus station or barstool, or one improvised. Because like their songs and beautiful understated playing it is universal, and of the real world.
Among the stories there is non stronger than “Parkersburg Blues (For Paul Buskirk)” or my favourite “Hartford’s Bend” (a jewel of a song written by Jutz and the likewise amazing, John Hadley). The former is about a mandolinist who from 1940s onwards performed with much eloquence, and played on a bunch of Willie Nelson albums in the 1980s-1990s, a man who’s hatred of his home state of West Virginia was carried and, it is even proclaimed on his grave! He could not wait to remove himself from the hills of the state and become an adopted Texan. As for “Hartford's Bend” they tip their hat to the late John Hartford. “Angel’s Share” is about the whiskey absorbed, and goes through the wood of barrels to disappear in the air; hence it is called the angel’s share. A co-write from Jutz and Richey it is a fine piece, but in the popularity stakes it falls short of the beautiful “Little Old Town”; for although it speaks of death and the lost river port of Jefferson, Tennessee and of how there was once a town now it is a pretty lake. Written, according to the splendid liner notes by the someone in the trio by Cooper and Jutz under the powerful influence of Ron Rash’s One Foot In Eden, and good friend, Country Music Hall Of Famer Ton T. Hall’s entire catalogue (fittingly I am currently listening to some of the old master’s recordings for RCA, “Soldier Of Fortune”, “Son Of Clayton Delaney Died” and “The Great East Broadway Championship Of 1978” etc), point being the vocals on the track are as good, if not better than anything else on the record.
Close to it you have “Hendersonville” and as Jerry Lee gets a mention “Uneasy Does It” and earthy, and direct “B&O Man” (more excellent lead vocals it is a co-write from Brace and Cooper) and of a folksy mountain feel the mournful tale of “My Sally” (one of four penned by Brace). Its beauty underlined by some eloquent picking. On blending strains of folk with country storytelling the listener gets to enjoy a wonderful, beautifully produced recording from a trio who are all true craftsmen, and masters of keeping it simple. As ably demonstrated on Brace's song about astronaut Neil Armstrong “Tranquility Base” and a love song he wrote after visiting Johnny Cash’s gravesite at Hendersonville Memory Gardens before a permanent headstone was put in place,and for a few days just-turned dirt. Brace also wrote the first song on the album “If I Had A Nickel”, and with all three artists allowed space to sing a lead section and the playing so melodious I find it hard to imagine a better opener. If you like this then you will likewise be interested in other albums from Cooper and Brace on Red Beet; solo and duet for the former, while the latter also recorded with his band Last Train Home to go with the duo albums with Cooper.
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