Eric Brace & Thomm Jutz - Simple Motion
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Simple Motion (Red Beet, 2024)

Eric Brace & Thomm Jutz

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

"Simple Motion" had to be a very difficult album for Eric Brace and Thomm Jutz to make, in the wake of the sudden passing of the third member of their vital trio, Peter Cooper. Naturally, the album is dedicated to the memory of Cooper, and inevitably strains of loss ring through these songs.

That's not to say that it's a somber record. Instead, the duo, recording together for the first time in this configuration, deliver a range of emotions through these generous 14 songs, some just as a duo while they render others with a full band.

In tough times, Brace and Jutz resort to what they do best, songcraft, while tapping some of Music City's best in banjoist Richard Bailey, string man Justin Moses and accordionist Jeff Taylor who augment a core band of Mark Farin, Lynn Williams, Tammy Rogers and Mike Compton. Rather obviously, the picking is top shelf as Jutz's production captures immaculate instrumentation and lush harmonies throughout.

"Simple Motion" is evenly divided between folk songs played by just the two of them or another accompanist and full-bore Americana songs. There are only a few touches of twang. Themes of wandering, coping with loss and resilience are apparent in all songs penned by some combination of Jutz and Brace and other co-writers.

These folk-like songs are so comforting that they almost seem familiar – Brace's "Ramble," the ballad "Arkansas," "Burn," "Outside Views," the Celtic-flavored "Adam & Eve" and the sailor/sea shanty motif as Brace sets to music John Masefield's poem in "Sea Fever." The linchpin track is "Can't Change the Weather," written by Jutz and Cooper, essaying a means of surviving the curve balls life throws at us.

They reminisce about the past. "Frost on the South Side" takes us back to simple farming vs. today's massive combines. "Nashville in the Morning" mourns the city's transformation to a major urban center. The banjo-driven title track brings in the age-old theme of trains, citing "when I hear a train at night, it makes me wish for everything that's gone" along with line in "What You Get for Getting Older" is "just a little less time" inevitably remind us of Tom Paxton, Utah Phillips and Steve Goodman. Jutz and Brace take us back to that era with these stories and sentiments, as effortlessly as the title suggests.

CDs by Eric Brace & Thomm Jutz

Simple Motion, 2024

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