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Martin Simpson and Thomm Jutz sit on a sofa and laugh. The image is black and white. Thomm is wearing a baseball cap.

Martin Simpson and Thomm Jutz announce ‘Nothing But Green Willow’

Martin Simpson and Thomm Jutz gather together a group of stellar singers to investigate songs from Cecil Sharp's escapades in the Appalachians.

“These are mysterious songs, that’s what sets them apart from popular music,” says Grammy-nominated and IBMA Award-winning songwriter and guitarist, Thomm Jutz. He’s speaking about his long-running obsession with Cecil Sharp’s 1916 and 1918 collection, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians; particularly those tunes from singers Mary Sands and Jane Gentry. A lot goes unexplained. Why certain characters find themselves in certain situations is not as important as how they deal with them,” says Jutz.

“The stories and messages in these songs are as important today as they were hundreds of years ago. The reason for this is that they deal with archetypes. And archetypes and the problems related to them transcend time and place.” Jutz’s journey through the English folk song collector’s work led him to these two particular women who might’ve unknowingly changed the course of folk music history – and to his transatlantic collaborator, award-winning English artist, songwriter, and guitarist, Martin Simpson

“Martin Simpson is one of the greatest guitar players on the planet and it was a dream to work with him on this album,” says Jutz. “Together we selected the songs and paired singers and songs. It was easy. We had talked on the phone but never met in person. I picked him up at the Nashville airport and five days later we had the first six songs. Then we flew to England together and after a week had the rest.” 

Simpson and Jutz both clearly see the crucial need for each new generation to reinvent these folk songs. “I strongly believe that innovation requires preservation,” says Jutz. “How can we claim to play traditional music or write ‘folk music’ without knowing the roots of it?” Fortunately for all involved, the pair found a host of others in agreeance and brought together a mix of roots artists from both sides of the pond – Sierra Hull, Angeline Morrison, Odessa Settles, Tim O’Brien, Tammy Rogers, Seth Lakeman, Emily Portman and more – to create an homage to the bridge from Appalachia to England and back, just as the songs of Sands and Gentry originally did. The collection is called Nothing But Green Willow: The Songs of Mary Sands and Jane Gentryand will be released on September 29th via Topic Records on LP deluxe CD edition, which includes an astonishing, highly educational 20-page booklet, featuring in-depth liner notes by Dr Ted Olson (Professor of Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State University)

Today, Simpson and Jutz release the first single from Nothing But Green Willow. ‘Come All You Fair And Tender Ladies’ [Roud 451] featuring Northern Irish folk singer, Cara Dillon, is a song that inspired a book by Lee Smith and is still being sung on the Grand Ol’ Opry by vocal group The Whites. Dillon’s stunning vocal performance is only matched by Simpson and Jutz’s instinctual guitar counterpoint. “This is one of my favorite examples of how Martin and I played off each other,” says Jutz. “None of it was planned or premeditated. We ran through this song once in Cara’s kitchen before we recorded it on a gorgeous summer day in Frome.”

Nothing But Green Willow: The Songs of Mary Sands and Jane Gentry is out in September and can be ordered from this link

Nothing But Green Willow: The Songs of Mary Sands and Jane Gentry – tracklist

  • ‘Fair Annie’ feat. Emily Portman
  • ‘Geordie’ feat. Sierra Hull & Justin Moses
  • ‘Pretty Saro’ feat. Odessa Settles
  • ‘Edward’ feat. Seth Lakeman
  • ‘Edwin in the Lowlands Low’ feat. Tim O’Brien
  • ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ feat. Dale Ann Bradley & Tim Stafford
  • ‘Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies’ feat. Cara Dillon
  • ‘The Wagoner’s Lad’ feat. Martin Simpson
  • ‘Married and Single Life’ feat. Tammy Rogers
  • ‘The Gypsy Laddie’ feat. Thomm Jutz
  • ‘The Suffolk Miracle’ feat. Angeline Morrison
  • ‘I Whipped My Horse’ feat. Fay Hield
  • ‘Awake! Awake!’ feat. Thomm Jutz