Midwinterfest 2020 - Day 1 Jefferson Ross and Thomm Jutz
A year since he last played a stunning set at Midwinterfest 2019, Jefferson Ross returns, for a seated session with Thomm Jutz ( pronounced Youtz), a name that may not initially be familiar but as we said in our preview, this mans credentials are simply stunning and together for the next hour they would bat songs back with each other as they might at the Bluebird Cafe, in the same manner that two tennis players might fight out a Wimbledon Final.
Opening with "Dogwood Cats", Jefferson would provide guitar and vocals, with almost a nonchalance effortlessly adding in dazzling guitar lines with seemingly the most minimum of effort. Thomm opening song "I Long To Hear Them Testify" from his forthcoming album "To Live In Two Worlds Volume 1" was a stunning opener detailing his fascination with the music of the 20's and 30's, once again the guitar work was exemplary, and the vocals really captured that wishing to see them play sensation, to life perfectly.
Jefferson's next song , came as a special request for Steve Black, "Arvin", was choc full of details that painted a picture with words as well as any brush on canvas ever could, celebrating the life of a man who among other things found true joy and salvation in his record collection, "they don't talk back but they sing along" and ruminating on the passage of time and the fact that it is funerals that tend to bring everyone together. Each player looked at the other as they delivered their intricate guitar work - and it was met with cries of "Brilliant" on its completion. Thomm Jutz next song found inspiration in the works of British Folk Archivist Cecil Sharp and his travels to preserve traditional folk songs, and even his introduction to "Where The Bluebirds Call" was both educational and fascinating. It came with a chorus that had the sweetest of guitar lines and received a standing ovation, even at this early stage of proceedings on as ong that you can't help but feel Cecil would have approved of, as it even name checks some of the songs Cecil saved that have gone on to become classics.
Jefferson then gave the audience the choice of a song with or without words, for somewhat baffling reasons given the mans wizardry with words they went for an instrumental "Dunwoody Train", Jefferson creating the imagery of a train from playing guitar alone, even ending with a the effect of a train slowing down. Thomm's next song was about East Kentucky, "East Kentucky Blues" had a slow gently picked intro, co written with Tammy Rodgers of The Steeldrivers, observing how beauty and poverty seem to go hand in hand for some reason on a song of haunting beauty.
Jefferson next song was dedicated to Alan West, "Isle Of Hope" came with a beautiful melody and moving wonderfully crafted words becoming of a song detailing his brother suicide and the things that he would therefore never get to see. Lifting the mood a little, Thomm told of his ill fated Irish tour decimated by the weather front known as the "Beast From The East" and then played the song created from the time handed back by the cancelled dates. "Let The Weather Blow Through" came with laugh out loud lines and had something of Nanci Griffith about it, apt for someone who was once her guitarist, the catchy homespun chorus had the crowd singing along loudly on a song that only a few minutes earlier they had not heard of - spectacular stuff!!
With the crowd in a singalong mood, Jefferson changed his next song to "Baptize The Gumbo" which came with a hilarious intro and another effortless solo from Thomm and had the whole room shouting the title of the song. and even garnered a round of applause mid song! Thomm kept the mood uptempo with "Every Pilgrim Needs a Highway" which came with another light hearted intro, the song itself was one of hope once again, matching Thomm's excellent playing with his understated unfussy yet heartfelt delivered vocals.
Jefferson final song "Yesterdays Papers" about a homeless person looking for his woman, saw Jefferson for part of the song play guitar with just one hand, as the man find out his love "
was "like yesterdays paper blowing on down the line". As with all of his songs you could just sit and bathe in the quality of the lyrics. A final tune in a quite extraordinary session of songwriting came with "I Sang The Song" with Thomm playing and singing with great aplomb, a tribute to the life of Mac Wiseman a legend of the bluegrass country music scene.
It is hard to convey just how enjoyable this slot was, it would've been great just spending time with such great raconteurs listening to them talk but the fact that they just happened to have the ability to play and sing meant that spending time in their company was a real honour,