Rootsy “1861 Project” Bridges Past And Present

Many notable Nashvillians have contributed to a new Civil War-themed album called The 1861 Project. They will gather at The Basement to celebrate the release on Tues., July 19 at 7 p.m.

With a narrator setting the backdrop for the audience, performances of the unique project run more like a play than a traditional concert. The show debuted Wednesday night (7/13) on Music City Roots.

Musical colleagues Thomm Jutz, Peter Cronin and Paul Schatzkin teamed to create the passion project of story songs about the Civil War. The album doesn’t re-create the sound of the period, instead it is an acoustic, roots-driven offering with performances by John Anderson, Marty Stuart, Dana Cooper, Chris Jones, and more.

Producer Jutz—whose track record includes work with Nanci Griffith and Mary Gauthier—helmed The 1861 Project. Following countless hours of historical research, he and Cronin wrote about half of the songs on the album. Also offering contributions are tunesmiths Irene Kelley, Charley Stefl, Jon Weisberger, Mark Fain, Stan Webb, Jefferson Ross, and Dana Cooper.

Some of the songs are derived from true stories handed down through generations, while others are historical conjecture. “I Have” tells of a man walking home barefoot for hundreds of miles following the surrender at Appomattox. Another song, “Eyes,” relates the story of an Irish immigrant, one of many drafted into Union service from their new home in New York City. The exuberant “Gospel Train” is from the perspective of a runaway slave “riding” the Underground Railroad to freedom.

These are among the stories that unfold in Volume 1: From Farmers To Foot Soldiers, which focuses on the period’s working class. Meanwhile, Jutz, Cronin and Schatzkin say plans for Volume 2 are already taking shape.

Timing for the project’s release coincides perfectly with the sesquicentennial of The American Civil War. Completion of the album also represents a personal victory for German-born Jutz, who is in the midst of the naturalization process to become an American citizen.


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Sarah Skates has worked in the music business for more than a decade and is a longtime contributor to MusicRow.

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