Eric Brace, Peter Cooper & Thomm Jutz - Riverland
RED BEET RECORDS RBECD0024
Eric Brace, Peter Cooper and Thomm Jutz's second album together is that all-too-rare occurrence of a concept record. In these days of downloads and streaming with music fans just latching onto single tracks rather than whole albums, it is an alloyed joy to listen to a record that was conceived to be listened to as a whole rather than a disparate collection of odd pieces recorded ad hoc in the hope of creating a track that millions will latch onto, a little like sheep flocking aimlessly over a cliff edge. The premise of RIVERLAND is the mighty Mississippi, with songs about people, events and ruminations that are all in some way associated with America's mightiest river.
This trio of writer-musicians take the listener on a winding musical journey where the unexpected is the expected ... sweeping melodies, precise pickin’ and enthralling yarns in a breath-taking collection of country-folk compositions that range from wistful, unhurried ballads to swirling, majestic creations all set to warm, inviting vocals and non-linear story-telling. The first track, River City, sets the scene. From the opening line, ‘Here’s a young man …’ you are instantly hooked in. Close your eyes and you'll be taken to a place where the river ends by The King Of The Keelboat Men, dancing in the bayou, underneath the stars surrounded by lightening bugs. Then you’re transported back in time to 1863 and the American Civil War with Down Along The River, a dark and haunting sonic exploration of America’s darkest hours. The mood remains sombre as we move to 1927 and the big floods that devastated whole swathes of the Southern States, brought back to vivid life in Drowned And Washed Away.
Tom T. And Brother Will with its playful banjo, gently sawing fiddle and chirpy guitar grooves, contrasts with enchanting quiet moments, as in the haunting ballad In the Presence Of The River. Quietly hypnotic, almost meditative, it draws the listener into a moment of self-reflection. More light moments are offered with the jaunty Southern Mule, in which a hard-working animal ruminates on life and Fort Defiance a wonderfully descriptive piece of where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet. The album closes most aptly with Mississippi, Rest My Soul, a beautiful four-minute rumination that almost aches with the quiet magic that runs through its core, like a gradually dawning revelation that is too beautiful for words.
An album that patrols the foggy edges of American music from the banks of this great river, there are lifetimes lived in the stories in these songs. The weathered smiles and measured voices of watermen, soldiers and men of the earth live inside the music of an album that is something of an epic journey into a genre of music easily identifiable as Americana.