Eric Brace and Thomm Jutz “Simple Motion”

Red Beet Records, 2024

Brace and Jutz summon up an outstanding album following the death of their musical soulmate.

Eric Brace and Thomm Jutz 'Simple Motion' cover artEric Brace is a seemingly humble, yet truly excellent singer-songwriter (originally a writer on The Washington Post), based now in East Nashville, a Grammy award-winning record producer, owner of Red Beet Records, leader of the excellent eclectic roots rock band Last Train Home, one-third of the trio with Thomm Jutz and the sadly departed Peter Cooper, and a genuinely nice guy. Thomm Jutz is a German-born singer-songwriter who relocated to Nashville in 2003 (about the same time as Brace brought his own band to reside there), a record maker and producer, with Grammy award nominations to his credit and a number of fine solo albums as well as several albums with the aforementioned trio.

Cooper, also a Grammy award-winner, a writer for The Tennessean, record maker and producer, and one of the leading lights in the Country Music Hall of Fame (an acclaimed musicologist) released three solo albums and a number with Brace (and Jutz on some). They have all toured with major leading artists such as Nanci Griffith, Lucinda Williams and Todd Snider.  Sadly Cooper died in December 2022 from a head injury after a serious fall at home – he was just 52.

Brace and Jutz, dealing with their grief at the loss of a close friend and musical brother, wondered ‘what would Peter have done?’ And the answer back it came,  continue to make music.  The 14 tracks on the new (debut) album ‘Simple Motion’ are the result of an intensive spell of songwriting and touring, followed by a period at Jutz’s home recording studio. It is a lovely, laid-back acoustic album full of stories about simple characters, the joy of being alive, and is genuinely uplifting, given the circumstances in which it arose.

Travelling and/or not settling for humdrum existence are the twin themes of the album. ‘When London was the World‘ is a 1930s-Europe based swing, ‘Nashville in the Morning’ bemoans the commercial growth of Nashville while still retaining love for the city,’ Arkansas’ is a dark tale that emerges from a trip to the said town “Are you on your way to Arkansas Smoke rising from the track. ‘Frost on the South Side’, the opener, relates how workers were transferred on trains from east to west of Canada to help the wheat growers. And ‘Ramble’ is an exhortation to get out into the fresh air and open sky rather than stay indoors or in a car.

Burn’ urges “Travelling to be travelling, Learning just to learn, Unravelling and unravelling Around every turn If you wanna light the way Burn” and ‘Just a moment‘’’s wonderfully positive chorus  “Oh when I woke up in the morning ‘There’s a moment’, just a moment When everything is light Then oh I open my eyes And I remember Everything has changed”.  And then there is ‘Anywhere but here’, with its enticement to break away from your troubles. ‘Outside views’ (with its beautiful guitar motif throughout) takes a slightly different tack – if you can’t lighten up because of the bad weather, then let the weary blues wash over you, there’s not much you can do about it.

‘Can’t change the weather’ and ‘What you get for getting older’  (a highlight) are fine pieces of advice. The former is a lovely Cooper co-write and the latter looks back at one’s life with a new appreciation after the realization that there is more behind you than there is in the front of you. The whole album is very folksy (not unlike Tom Paxton), with elements of blues and bluegrass, and even a Celtic influence on a couple of tracks,  ‘Adam and Eve’ with its story of a serious fishing boat tragedy in Ireland, and ‘Sea Fever’ ‘s masterful interpretation of John Masefield’s poem.

Brace and Jutz recruited some exceptional session musicians – Mark Fain on bass, the wonderful Tammy Rodgers on fiddle, Mike Compton on mandolin, and added contributions from Richard Bailey on banjo and Justin Moses on dobro. The twin lead guitars of the duo are exceptional, adding some delightful motifs and lilting solos (probably Jutz since Brace admitted to AUK last year that he was a mediocre player but that Jutz was one of the best guitar players he had ever met!). They all add to the gentle feeling of the album. You pretty much know what you are going to get with an Eric Brace album – lovely melodies, splendid playing, insightful lyrics, great production, and in the case of his duo/trio records, wonderful harmonies. It is all there on this wonderful album.

8/10
8/10

About FredArnold 60 Articles
Lifelong fan of predominantly US (and Canadian) country roots music. Previously an avid concert-goer before wives, kids and dogs got in the way- and although I still try to get to several, my preference for small independent venues often means standing, and that ain't too good for my ancient bones!! Still, a healthy and catholic music collection helps ease the pain
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