Continuing to reflect on the American South and its rich musical history, songwriter Thomm Jutz has released two more singles from his upcoming album, this time capturing the storied careers of musical legends John Hartford and Jimmie Rodgers in portraits imbued with the spirit each brought to his own music.
The pair of songs — “Hartford’s Bend” and “Jimmie Rodgers Rode A Train” — is another example of the breadth of songwriting and musicianship on Jutz’s upcoming body of work, two volumes of music to be released under the apt title, To Live In Two Worlds.
"Hartford’s Bend” is a haunting tune that deftly incorporates song titles and aphorisms from the renowned entertainer’s life and music as it pays homage to “every riverboat captain’s friend.” With wistful harmonies from banjoist Justin Moses, the song instantly brings to mind many of Hartford’s own stately waltzes.
Though he didn’t know him, Jutz often looks to Hartford’s work for inspiration, saying, “John Hartford — where do you begin? His humor, sense of history and tradition. His virtuosity and timing, his grace and his love of the river …Where do you stop? John Hadley, who I wrote this song with, was a close friend of John Hartford’s. I wouldn’t have dared to write this song without him.”
Of the song, Hartford’s daughter, Katie Harford Hogue says, “Thomm Jutz and John Hadley have written a lovely tune called 'Hartford’s Bend,' which beautifully captures the unhurried pace of the riverboats that Dad loved; you can almost hear a paddlewheel turning.”
“Jimmie Rodgers Rode A Train” is the solo offering in this pair of releases, featuring Jutz’s intimate vocal, fingerpicked guitar and nothing more. Drawing on Rodgers’ own blues and Tin Pan Alley influences, the song punctuates a laconic recounting of the Singing Brakeman’s career with equally spare interludes that reveal Jutz’s quiet virtuosity.
Though Rodgers had a short life and career, Jutz views it as unparalleled.
“He wanted to be every American’s favorite singer. He was the singing brakeman, the cowboy, the dapper crooner. He only had six years to make it all happen and boy did he ever make it happen,” says Jutz.
Like the rest of the extensive set Jutz has recorded for his initial projects with Mountain Home, these are songs infused with a deep knowledge and understanding of the rural southern music — and those who made it — that brought Jutz from his native Germany to Nashville at the beginning of the century.
“Hartford loved the riverboats, Jimmie loved the trains and his fancy cars. American history and musical history is one of movement,” he says. “Its past so close behind and its future moving still — that’s what draws me to it.”