Monday, January 12, 2015

Craig Market and Thomm Jutz - The complexities of simplicity

Six months ago, I'd never heard of Thomm Jutz (web). Shamefully perhaps - but the truth.

Though he has been around Nashville with really no effort to hide, I didn't find Jutz until learning he co-produced Mac Wiseman's latest collection of songs with Peter Cooper.

In December, I saw Jutz' tremendous work as the lead organizer and song writer for The 1861 Project whose latest album was a collection of songs written about The Battle of Franklin during the Civil War.

Credit: Ken Gray Images
Within the last month, I learned Jutz teamed with Nashville-based songwriter Craig Market to record Nowhere to Hide, scheduled for release on January 29.

The album is a cool recording - two guys with guitars singing songs without being overly produced. No bass. No drums. No keys. No horns. Simplicity seems to be the theme. They wrote the songs over a period of three years. When it came time to record them, they proceeded without a crunch to hurry through the effort. They recorded one song per day until they were done.

The album's timing release in the winter is appropriate. The album cover is dark and a bit cold - as is the lyrical content of several of the songs. The guitar work between the two is exceptional, but the lyrics require a deliberate listen. The Civil War, World War II, the funeral of a West Virginia miner, transparency as a musician and songwriter, etc. - not exactly themes one generally streams poolside through their iPhone and Bluetooth speakers.

Market's vocal range and style remind me a bit of Randy Travis and James Taylor (tuned down an octave). Though the two collaborated on the songwriting, Market sings lead vocals on 10 of the 12 tracks. Jutz' singing is featured on one song, and the two sing as a true duet on WV Miner, about the passing of one of those who work underneath the mountain.

In the middle of some tough songs thematically is one of simplicity - That's Enough. A house. A companion. A stove with some firewood. Safety, security. No need to invest wasted efforts chasing ghosts in search of something grander. What more does one need truthly? Well, some beer and a trusty dog, but maybe that's just me...

The album's final two songs reveal a bit more of the two as individual artists and individuals - Nowhere To Hide and You Take Me As I Am. Preceding them, however, is the song of the twelve that perhaps stills me the most: Thunder. Jutz sang it on the second volume of The 1861 Project. On Nowhere To Hide, Market's deeper and darker voice is featured.

I'll be the first to admit my ignorance of the details of the Civil War. I've got the big picture - the North defeated the South, and I can rattle off the names of many of the battlefields. Gaining a deeper knowledge about the details - particularly the personal and gruesome details - of the battles, the young soldiers, the townsfolk, the horrifying injuries and head-shaking medical care, etc. has not been front and center for me. One of the themes Jutz explored with 1861 is the role of Irish immigrants. Many fled for the US in hopes of finding a better life. Instead, many found themselves smack dab in the middle of it's war between the states. Some served, some fought - some for the North, some for the South. Many lived, many died - and were buried in shallow, dirt graves. And some - immigrants or US lifers - were faced with having to dig those graves.

Plowing furrows in the Irish soil
Now I'm digging shallow graves for Irish boys

My soul is weary, and my back is sore
Today alone I buried twenty-four

Two feet deep and lined up in a row
Fishermen and farmers I suppose

Will anyone remember through the years?
The flowers once again are blooming here

A contemplative album to be sure - one whose guitar work will be easily absorbed but whose lyrics will require intentional listening.


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