If it seems like Thomm Jutz lives in two worlds, it’s only because the one where he actually lives is a place where past and present, nostalgia and reinvention, preservation and innovation all coexist — sometimes comfortably, sometimes with elbows thrown. Like its predecessor, To Live In Two Worlds, Volume 2 is filled with stories of mysterious deaths, moral dilemmas, struggling musicians and historical events that range through the years and across the globe, offered alternately with the help of a crackerjack string band and by nothing more than Jutz’s guitar and voice.
“As always with my writing, you’ll find characters from days gone by in this collection of songs,” Jutz says. “Real or imagined, they struggle with their place in the world — like we all do. My beliefs, frustrations and hopes live in these characters, in the spiritual overtones and worldly undercurrents of their human existence. From the writing desk to the recording studio it’s been a genuine joy to work on this album.”
With songs ranging through the early days of country music to modern day historical events like Nashville’s historic flood and the fire that raged through Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral, Jutz weaves a rich historical timeline with memorable melodic strains and vivid turns of phrase. People long forgotten live again, favorite characters from modern classics make their appearances, and stories never told before come clothed in the sounds of days gone by.
The first single from the project, “The Flood of 2010” — the only song in the entire two volume set to receive both solo and full band treatments — sets the pace, evoking the musical flavor of a durable folk song while carrying on the genre’s tradition of telling the news of the day in a vivid, detailed fashion. Inscrutable histories both truth-based and fictional get their due in “New River Gorge” and “In This House,” while the simplest verities of the gospel are revealed in “If You Sign Up For The Kingdom,” “Suffering’s Gonna Find You” and “No One Knows.” Another great stream of musical tradition, the blues, is explored here, too, from the hardships that inform the “East Kentucky Blues” and the unfulfilled promises laid bare in “Emancipation Blues” to the story of African-American Grand Ole Opry star DeFord Bailey (“Evening Prayer Blues Revisited”). And no matter the particulars, Jutz and his co-writers dig deep to find the essence of each story and link it to the larger world.
Whether he’s accompanied by the masterful Mike Compton (mandolin), bassist Mark Fain, Justin Moses (dobro, banjo) and fiddler Tammy Rogers (The SteelDrivers), or by nothing more than his own exquisite guitar work, Thomm Jutz has written a new chapter in the story of American roots music with To Live In Two Worlds, Volume 2 — and we’re left only to wonder what he’ll have to say next time around about the times we live in now.