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Thomm Jutz

To Live In Two Worlds Volume 1 – 2020 (Mountain Home)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Thomm Jutz

Fans of Eric Brace and Peter Cooper are certainly familiar with the guitarist and singer-songwriter, Thomm Jutz, who has become the third member of that trio over the past few recordings. Jutz is increasingly stepping out his own songs on those albums as well as on Brace's most recent Last Train Home album. Now we are about to indulge in two albums of Jutz's songs, this being the first installment.

Every song is a co-write, usually with one of the stellar musicians - Mark Fain (upright bass), Tammy Rogers (fiddle), Mike Compton (mandolin), Justin Moses (banjo and harmony vocals), Milan Miller (vocals on "Mill Town Blues") and Trey Hensley (vocals on "Wilmer McLean') - accompanying him.

Stories of vagabond musicians ("Mill Town Blues" about Charlie Poole), tragic Civil War characters real and imagined ("Wilmer McLain" and "Shelton Laurel Valley" with its memorable chorus -"Damned if you do, damned if you don't, dead if you will, dead if you won't"), semi-forgotten regional legends ("Where the Bluebirds Call" about Englishman Cecil Sharp and "Blind Alfred Reed" sit alongside a touching tribute to John Hartford as the riverboat captain ("Hartford's Bend") and Jimmie Rodgers ('Jimmie Rodgers Rode a Train").

With the supporting cast, as you'd expect, music carries a bluegrass feel, but there are lovely acoustic guitar ballads interspersed such as "Where the Bluebirds Call" and country blues in the tune about Blind Alfred Reed and in "I Long to Hear Them Testify," as he sings about Blind Willie McTell and Skip James. Jutz has a sense of humor too as evidenced in the closing "What'll They Think Up Last," inspired by a line from co-writer John Hadley over morning coffee on a Sunday morning.

It's rather astounding to realize this German-born musician is such an amazing historian of the American South. His songs for the ages. To know that another volume is forthcoming is almost too good to be true.