In putting together their new album Nothing But Green Willow: The Songs Of Mary Sands and Jane Gentry, Grammy-nominated and IBMA Award-winning songwriter and guitarist Thomm Jutz and his latest trans-Atlantic collaborator, the 32-time BBC Radio 2 Folk Award-nominated Martin Simpson, knew for a fact that they weren’t the only musicians who’d long obsessed over Cecil Sharp’s “English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians” collection. When it came time to record some of Sands and Gentry’s breathtaking and mysterious contributions to Sharp’s catalog, collaborators like Sierra Hull, Cara Dillon, Angeline Morrison, Odessa Settles, Tammy Rogers, and Seth Lakeman didn’t think twice about being involved in Simpson and Jutz’s mission.
Today, Simpson and Jutz shared a new track featuring one of the many decorated guests on Nothing But Green Willow, “Edwin In The Lowlands Low” featuring Tim O’Brien. “Tim understands the importance of levity in songwriting and in presenting songs, even the sad ones like ‘Edwin in the Lowlands Low,’” says Jutz. “When we made the record Martin couldn’t get enough of listening to Tim’s vocal. He just started laughing with excitement every time Tim hits those high notes.” O’Brien tackles both lead vocals and fiddle, playing both at the same time in the recording studio. The result is an all-live, timeless rendition of the century-old song; a string that runs through the entirety of Nothing But Green Willow. “I love these songs because they are relevant,” says Jutz. “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.”
“Despite the title of this song its protagonist’s name is Edward, another beautifully weird thing about these songs,” says Jutz. “Poor Edward gets killed by his future father-in-law. His bride Emily has a dream in which she foresees Edward’s death.” The trio of Simpson, Jutz, and O’Brien embrace the sorrow of the song’s narrator in the same way generations of folksingers have previously embodied the forlorn character. Yesterday, Bluegrass Today premiered the song a day early, calling it “an iconic murder ballad.”
Fans can listen to “Edwin in the Lowlands Low” right now at this link, check out Simpson and Jutz’s previously-released singles, “The Wagoner’s Lad” and “Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies” at their respective links, and pre-order or pre-save Nothing But Green Willow: The Songs Of Mary Sands and Jane Gentry 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