The 1861 Project, Volume 1: From Farmers to Foot Soldiers

It’s been 150 years since the Civil War began with a shot on Fort Sumter, S.C., and yet it’s not uncommon today to see the Rebel flag displayed in America’s southern regions. The spell cast by this bloody conflict between brothers isn’t unique to Americans—it also reached German-born musician Thomm Jutz, a proponent of American roots music who began working on songs about this still-controversial piece of history.

But Jutz, now a Nashvillian, has no axe to grind. The songs he’s produced and co-written for The 1861 Project neither glorify nor vilify the war; rather, they put human faces on it, exploring the perspectives of individual soldiers, wives, slaves and civilian onlookers. Sung by a host of vocalists (most notably Marty Stuart and John Anderson), the 17 tracks find their union in a common theme, well-researched lyrics and a folksy acoustic style.

Though its subdued and weighty contents rarely energize, this well-conceived collection fires a shot for serious emotional depth. In today’s party-happy country climate, that’s a battle worth fighting.

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