It’s not often that historical research is recommended before listening to a bluegrass album. Here is one such case. So factually driven are the stories in Thomm Jutz and The 1861 Project’s Civil War trilogy, the listener can’t help but benefit from learning more of the events from which the songs were created. Where the first two volumes each dealt with larger panoramas, the first exploring the impact of the war on the average man and the second the Irish experience in the conflict, this final volume focuses on the ways in which lives were touched and changed by a single battle in Franklin, Tenn., in December of 1864. Knowing something of that battle and of the characters involved (the Lotz Family, Patrick Cleburne, and Tod Carter, among them, have their lives and battlefield experiences examined) makes for a better listening experience.
As with the earlier volumes, there are a variety of styles of music among the 15 songs presented, and Jutz has called again upon a large pool of songwriters (Charley Stefl, Peter Cronin, Peter Cooper, and Jon Weisberger among 14), singers (Kim Richey, Chris Jones, Amanda Smith, and Bobby Bare among 13) and instrumentalists (Ron Block, Sierra Hull, Mark Fain, and Justin Moses among 23) to make it go. This volume, in contrast to Volume Two, has only a small touch of Celtic (the chorus to “Great Fallen Hero”), and is largely a mix of country, country-rock, Americana, old-time, and a couple tracks of contemporary and traditional bluegrass (“Drawing In The Dirt” and “The Last Night Of The War”). Drums are on several, and the tempos are predominantly slow and medium.
Jutz has done a fine job of avoiding melodrama. He has also avoided any sort of martial glorification, focusing more on the melancholy and the tragic, and has left us with a brilliant and fitting conclusion to his trilogy, one full of heart-wrenching stories that will shake you whether you research it or not—but do a little research. (Thomm Jutz, P.O. Box 120964, Nashville TN 37212, www.thommjutz.com)BW