Hear Martin Simpson and Thomm Jutz’s Generation Spanning Interpretation Of “The Wagoner’s Lad”

Article Contributed by IVPR | Published on Thursday, August 3, 2023

When Grammy-nominated and IBMA Award-winning songwriter and guitarist Thomm Jutz got together with his latest trans-Atlantic collaborator, the 32-time BBC Radio 2 Folk Award-nominated Martin Simpson, the pair bonded over their long-running obsession with Cecil Sharp’s 1916 and 1918 collection, “English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians;” particularly those tunes from singers Mary Sands and Jane Gentry. The longevity of the original songs drew the pair in but the latest single from their upcoming album Nothing But Green Willow: The Songs Of Mary Sands and Jane Gentry, pulls from generations of different versions of “The Wagoner’s Lad.”

“Martin is a huge Buell Kazee fan. Many of Martin's alternate tunings are based on Kazee’s banjo tunings,” says Jutz. “Kazee recorded this song in 1928, then it was included in Harry Smith's ‘Anthology of American Folk Music’ in 1952, and it is included in Sharp's collection. This song then is an astonishing example of continuity in Folk Music.” Martin’s stunning guitar arrangement carries the song through its many mellow verses with Jutz tastefully accompanying the vocal melody on his 1941 Epiphone Triumph archtop guitar that once belonged to Norman Blake. “More continuity,” laughs Jutz.

Today, Folk Alley gave fans an exclusive first listen to the single, writing, “Jutz’s and Simpson’s gem-like version shines in all its facets." Out everywhere tomorrow, fans can pre-save Simpson and Jutz’s version of “The Wagoner’s Lad” at this link, check out the previously released album track “Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies” featuring Cara Dillon here, and pre-order or pre-save Nothing But Green Willow ahead of its September 29th release via Topic Records right here.

More About Nothing But Green Willow: The Songs Of Mary Sands and Jane Gentry: “The stories and messages in these songs are as important today as they were hundreds of years ago. The reason for this is that they deal with archetypes. And archetypes and the problems related to them transcend time and place.” Jutz’s journey through the English folk song collector's work led him to these two particular women who might’ve unknowingly changed the course of folk music history—and to his trans-Atlantic collaborator, award-winning English artist, songwriter, and guitarist, Martin Simpson. “Martin Simpson is one of the greatest guitar players on the planet and it was a dream to work with him on this album,” says Jutz. “Together we selected the songs and paired singers and songs. It was easy. We had talked on the phone but never met in person. I picked him up at the Nashville airport and five days later we had the first six songs. Then we flew to England together and after a week had the rest.”

Simpson and Jutz both clearly see the crucial need for each new generation to reinvent these folk songs. “I strongly believe that innovation requires preservation,” says Jutz. “How can we claim to play traditional music or write ‘Folk music’ without knowing the roots of it?” Fortunately for all involved, the pair found a host of others in agreeance and brought together a mix of roots artists from both sides of the pond—Sierra Hull, Angeline Morrison, Odessa Settles, Tim O’Brien, Tammy Rogers, Seth Lakeman, and more—to create an homage to the bridge from Appalachia to England and back, just as the songs of Sands and Gentry originally did.

Nothing But Green Willow Tracklist:

“Fair Annie” feat. Emily Portman

“Geordie” feat. Sierra Hull & Justin Moses

“Pretty Saro” feat. Odessa Settles

“Edward” feat. Seth Lakeman

“Edwin in the Lowlands Low” feat. Tim O’Brien

“Jacob’s Ladder” feat. Dale Ann Bradley & Tim Stafford

“Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies” feat. Cara Dillon

“The Wagoner’s Lad” feat. Martin Simpson

“Married and Single Life” feat. Tammy Rogers

“The Gypsy Laddie” feat. Thomm Jutz

“The Suffolk Miracle” feat. Angeline Morrison

“I Whipped My Horse” feat. Fay Hield

“Awake! Awake!” feat. Thomm Jutz