COOPER, BRACE AND JUTZ
a pathway discovered by
Peter Pearson: Routemaster General of Sidetracks And Detours
and followed by Norman Warwick
Hi Norm, said reader Peter Pearson, in an e mail to my Sidetracks & Detours office.
You made a brilliant job of my email regarding Mark Knopfler. (said Peter, referring to our article entitled Mark Knopfler, published on 26th April 2023 to reside for posterity in our easy to navigate archives of approaching 1,000 posts).
Don’t know how much you know of Peter Cooper, the US musician, journalist and director of the CMA I know him primarily via his trio work with Eric Brace and Thom Jutz. I only recently discovered that he died from an accident at home in December. He was only 52 and looked more like 32-tragic.
Sorry Peter,….I am not sure I know any of that. As someone said a few years ago, there are things I don´t know and there are things I know I don´t know, but the most interesting things are always things I don´t know I don´t know !
I seem to recall mentioning to you his album of Eric Taylor covers-Depot Light, continued Peter. A big Guy Clark fan he shared the same agent Tamara Saviano, who wrote the biographical book and film of Guy Clark.
So let´s see where new sidetracks and detours will lead us if we follow Peter´s suggested route.
Just google Peter Cooper, musician, Nashville, was his advice..
So we did, and here´s what we found;, appropriately at the top of the search results: Peter Cooper Singer and Songwriter at https://www.petercoopermusic.com/
The home page carries a photograph of Cooper (left) with guitar and below that there is a black and white photograph of the artist and producer with a musician with whom he has partnered on and off for many years, in this duo format and also with the two of them making a trio with Thomas Jutz. It transpires that all three musicians have also had productive solo careers.
The text on the home page is celebrating an album by Peter Cooper called Opening Day.
Above that though is what looks like a very promising drop down tabard, and it proved to be interesting and informative at the same time.
- Cooper looks at the world with an artist’s eye and a human heart and soul. His songs are
- Peter Cooper´s songs are the work of an original, creative imagination, alive with humor and heartbreak and irony and intelligence, with truth and beauty in the details. Deep stuff. And they get better every time you listen.” – Kris Kristofferson
- Has worked in the studio as a performer, producer or session musician with Tom T. Hall, Todd Snider, Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, Bobby Bare, Duane Eddy, Buddy Miller, Patty Griffin, Kim Carnes, Rodney Crowell, Ricky Skaggs, Kenny Chesney, Jim Lauderdale and many more.
- Prone to name-dropping
- Born in South Carolina. High school in Washington, DC area. Lives in Nashville. Member, Elks Lodge #299, Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
- Two solo albums and two duo albums with Eric Brace. Each album features significant steel guitar from Pedal Steel Hall of Famer Lloyd Green, the Sandy Koufax of the steel guitar.
- New solo album is called The Lloyd Green Album.
- New duo album with Eric Brace is The Master Sessions.
- Albums praised by the Washington Post, New York Times, Mix, No Depression, Philadelphia Inquirer and many more.
- “Mission Door is Cooper’s diploma from the Tom T. Hall School of Damn Good Songwriting,” wrote American Songwriter’s Matthew W. Shearon.
- Performs around the world, with solo, duo and band.
- Senior music writer at The Tennessean in Nashville.
- Senior lecturer in country music at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music.
- Frequent “talking head” on television. Also talks when not on television.
- Performed with Todd Snider on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman.
- “Musician, singer, songwriter, producer, author, professor and music journalist… Peter Cooper is a modern day renaissance man.” – Bob Edwards
- Named one of Nashville’s “10 Most Interesting People,” alongside the Kings of Leon, American Idol’s Mandisa and others, by Nashville Arts & Entertainment Magazine.
So, although obviously a shorthand highlights reel, the piece caught my attention and I had to once more admit, begrudgingly, that my reader Peter Pearson has sound musical judgement.
Sadly, when I pressed the drop down entitled dates, I found only a handful of gig notifications all of duo performances in 2020 by Peter Cooper with Eric Brace at places like the exotically named Red Dragon Listening Room in Baton Rouge.
The music pull down was more informative, liosting half a dozen albums with somewhat confusing dates attached to them.
The first was titled Opening Day (as shown above right) and details offered included that it was both performed and produced by Peter Cooper and was released on the Red Beet, and released date in 2013. With titles like Quiet Little War and Jenny Died At 25 the album can be heard in full on the web site,
Cooper himself says of the album This is an album about time, distance and perspective, written in the midst of upheavals, smiles and sadnesses. So, that’s quite rare, yes? It’s my first solo (“solo” meaning, “couldn’t have been done alone”) set since my son was born, so please don’t tell him if you don’t like it. I sense he already distrusts my artistic impulses, and we’re trying to encourage him to be less critical. Everybody hates a critic, especially a critic in diapers.
I’m writing this as wind sweeps through unfamiliar trees and unfamiliar birds trill unfamiliar calls in a gorgeous and unfamiliar place called Tamworth, Australia, which reminds me not to complain about the traveling life. I can hear a bagpipe playing in the distance, which reminds me why I don’t have a bagpipe on this album.
Hey, the bagpipe is okay. But it’s no Lloyd Green. Lloyd’s brilliant steel guitar work graces each of these songs, and Lloyd’s intelligence and creativity are evident in every note.
Thanks to anyone who lends an ear and doesn’t ask for it back.The next album title on the list is a twelve tracker also released in 2013 called The Comeback Album, and is this time co-produced and performed with the afore-mentioned Eric Brace, This album also released on Red Beet and it too can be heard on the web site.
Web site blurb reflects on The Comeback Album, saying “Hey, I never went away,” is what a lot of artists say when accused of making a “comeback album.”
Not Eric Brace & Peter Cooper. After releasing two duo albums that drew praise from a bevy of critics and colleagues, Brace and Cooper went away. They wandered across the U.S. and Europe to headline shows and to tour with luminaries including John Prine, Nanci Griffith, and Todd Snider. And they took a harrowing trip into the world of children’s music, earning a Grammy nomination (“nomination” is code for “they lost”) for producing I Love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow, a star-packed album that featured Hall, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, Bobby Bare, Duane Eddy, Jim Lauderdale, and many more.
Now, three years after their last adult-oriented (but not in an R-rated kind of way) release, Brace & Cooper return with The Comeback Album, a sparkling set that marries nine self-penned compositions with gems from Tom T. Hall, Karl Straub, and David Halley.
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Duane Eddy and Bluegrass Hall of Famer Mac Wiseman join Brace, Cooper, and country music torchbearer Marty Stuart for a revival of Hall’s “Mad,” and a band of players including Richard Bennett, Jen Gunderman, Rory Hoffman, Paul Griffith, David Jacques, Fats Kaplin, multi-instrumentalist/engineer Thomm Jutz and legendary steel guitarist Lloyd Green (the Byrds, Paul McCartney, Don Williams, etc.) provide the bed for Brace & Cooper’s splendid harmonies and deft storytelling.
The Comeback Album features scenes from a Johnson City jail, a Spartanburg slum, and the back ends of a few busted love affairs. It’s populated by fools, sages, tattooed sailors, victims and perpetrators, and for listeners, it’s a chance to come back and hear one of Americana music’s most intriguing and inventive acts.
There are plenty of interesting names in that above promo but the third album in this drop down is the intriguingly titled The Lloyd Green Album, but this was an earlier Red Beet release from 2010.
Lloyd Green was a ubiquitous figure on the country music scene for several decades, of course Born October 4, 1937) is an American steel guitarist noted for his extensive country music recording session career in Nashville performing on 116 No.1 country hits including Tammy Wynette‘s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” (1968), Charlie Rich‘s “Behind Closed Doors” (1973), The Oak Ridge Boys’ “Elvira” (1981), and Alan Jackson‘s “Remember When” (2004). Green was a one of an inner circle of elite recording studio musicians known colloquially as the Nashville A-Team. In a career beginning in the mid 1960s and spanning a quarter-century, Green performed on more than 5000 recordings helping to create hits for scores of artists such as Charley Pride, The Byrds, Johnny Cash, The Monkees, Don Williams, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, and many others. His 1968 performance on the Byrds‘ landmark album Sweetheart of the Rodeo, influenced generations of non-mainstream country guitarists.: 211 He was featured on Ken Burns‘ Country Music documentary film in 2019. Green was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1988.
Peter Cooper explains the making of ths album by saying I presented each of these songs to my favorite musician, steel guitar maestro Lloyd Green, as nearly blank canvases, shaded only by acoustic guitar and vocal. He drew the paintings, and then some of our friends came by and framed the whole deal.
That Peter Cooper stands in this company validates Peter´s interest in him, and is rubber-stamped by the fourth and final album listed on the web site.
Master Sessions ( is another album co-performed and co-produced by Peter Cooper and Eric Brace. Describing the album, Cooper says Growing up in the Washington, D.C. area, our instrumental hero was Mike Auldridge, who played Dobro for the Seldom Scene, a pioneering progressive bluegrass band that played every week at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va. As it turned out, Mike had a hero as well: pedal steel legend Lloyd Green, whose work with the Byrds, Don Williams and others had elevated Nashville steel and Dobro playing into something of other-worldly elegance. Lloyd took notice of Mike’s playing as well, and the two became mutual admirers, even collaborating on Mike’s 1976 tune “Lloyd’s of Nashville,” written in Mr. Green’s honor. But they’d never made a full-length album together, until now.
So this was our bright idea: Invite these two giants of their instruments into a Nashville studio to have a musical conversation with each other, using some songs we wrote and some we chose as conversation-starters. We surrounded Mike and Lloyd with the most talented and sympathetic musicians we know, asked them all to start playing, and proceeded to have the time of our musical lives. In the end, Mike and Lloyd said they rank these recordings with their finest and most fulfilling, and we found a way to make our heroes smile. We hope you like it, too.
Peter Cooper is also a great writer of prose as is evidenced by the Journal drop down that gathers some of his own story-telling about his career. One interesting piece we will share here is about the Tornado season in Texas.
Tornados hit East Nashville in the late 1990s and knocked down anything natural and wooden, and so there’s precious little left here in the way of shade. We’ve had some trees planted, but they take a while to grow up into anything that’ll subdue the misery index. That’s all fine, as Eric Brace and I are playing Houston on July 22, so this’ll serve as a training camp. “It’s hotter than concrete/ July in Houston/ And it’ll get even worse before it turns nice,” Lyle Lovett wrote. I trust he’s true to his word…
The Gallery drop down box is a treasure chest of promotional posters, photographs and videos of Copper and a football crowd of musical friends, and there is a great selection of videos there too. This page, in particular, would be of interest I´m sure to our reader Roger Liptrot who has accumulated his own similar archive, of the UK folk scene in particular, that dates back to the seventies to the present day.
The archives cupboard contains all sorts of press clippings by great writers from well-respected magazines, and is itself á book worth reading´.
In the next drop down, entitled Friends, Cooper sheds the spotlight on those musicians, , instruments, producers, studios and venues like The Bluebird Café. Its like a tour through the country music of the USA, nodding to Kristofferson, Emmylou, Eric taylor and the ghost of nanci Griffith as they stroll by.
The final excellent placement on this site is a definitive press kit, as useful to those who, like me, are new to Peter Coopers music as oit surely is even to those who closely followed his career. The drop down is full of promotional photographs, quotes, reviews and a diary or red letter days of his career to date.
So that was an exciting and exhaustive if exhausting day or two of following a Pearson pathway, but before I dare schedule my findings I thought I had better just refer back to Peter´s itinerary and make sure I had covered everything.
Yep. tick, tick, tick…..but wait a minute what is this?
Cooper wrote for the Tennessean, Peter had informed me, and here is a link to their tribute to him
Peter Cooper, acclaimed country music journalist and musician, dies at 52 (tennessean.com)
PETER COOPER by Dave Paulson Nashville Tennessean
Peter Cooper, acclaimed country music journalist and musician, dies at 52
Peter Cooper (left), an award-winning country music journalist and Grammy-nominated musician, died Tuesday in Nashville, Tennessee, after suffering a head injury from a fall. He was 52.
A native of South Carolina, Peter Cooper moved to Nashville in the year 2000, joining The Tennessean as a music writer. He soon established himself as a brilliant, unmistakable voice in country music criticism, filling his stories with earned insight, gentle wit and a well-placed baseball reference.
During his 15-year tenure, whether he was covering the death of George Jones or the rise of Taylor Swift, Cooper’s byline was the one countless readers looked for upon picking up the day’s paper.
That included the legends he wrote about. Kris Kristofferson once said he “looks at the world with an artist’s eye, and a human heart and soul,” while Hank Williams Jr. simply called him “one hell of a writer.”
One of Peter Cooper’s beliefs was key to his craft: “Objectivity is the mortal enemy.”
“Now, for sure, you need a good bull**** detector, and you shouldn’t rant, and you shouldn’t cheerlead,” he wrote in his 2017 book “Johnny’s Cash & Charley’s Pride.” (see our cover photo and top of this page)
“But objectivity is dispassionate. And we’re in the passion business. We’re trying to make people feel something different than what they felt before they read our words.”
“He was larger than life,” said Cooper’s brother, Chris. “He was the cleverest person in every room. He was the best writer in every room. And he was in rooms with some pretty damn smart people.”
I´m glad I checked. Here at Sidetracks And Detours it is not for nothing that we call Mr. Pearson ¨The Route-master General´ so I was alarmed to see that there was also another point I had missed.
Peter had also written in his e mail that Here also is a youtube link to one of my personal favourites from the trio.
I immediately controlled and clicked to see what I might have missed, and was delighted to find a video of the Cooper, Brace, Jutz trio delivering a solemn but simply gorgeous performance of River City. The line about ´come some misty morning, he´ll be out of here´ is beautifully rfedolent of ´coime morning, I´ll be through them hills and gone´ in the Townes Van Zandt song Snowin´On Raton.
Cooper´s voice has a little bit of the Rodney Crowell about it, and the musicianship on this you tube is exquisite.
Having spoken so expansively of Peter Cooper we ought to look in a little more depth at Eric Brace.
In March 2019 Eric Brace fielded eleven curveball questions in Nashville Music And Beyond, an on line magazine, that offer us something of a self-portrait.
On February 1, local label Red Beet Records released “Riverland,” the second LP from the musical trio of Eric Brace, Peter Cooper & Thomm Jutz. This conceptual collection of songs about the Magnolia state of Mississippi was self-produced by the trio and recorded here at Thomm Jutz’s Mt. Juliet studio. It’s a delightful mood-setting storytelling session with shared vocals and some smooth and gentle pickin’ from these tasty players. 11 Questions is stoked to have now harvested answers from all three of these talented Nashville musicians.
Eric Brace’s multi-faceted musical career started with a stint as a music writer for the Washington Post and was followed by his long tenure leading roots-rock band Last Train Home. Since then, he and Peter Cooper (shown picking, left) have worked as a musical duo for over a decade resulting in four records together. The pair also received a Grammy nomination for producing a guest star reprise of a Tom T. Hall record for children.
And if that ain’t enough, Eric’s catalog also includes a solo record with some of his friends sung in French and “Hangtown Dancehall,” a musical about the California Gold Rush with another friend, Karl Straub. One more thing is that Brace also runs the East Nashville-based independent Red Beet label where all of this great music can be found.
We thank Eric for dishing this out for us. This March, the Brace, Cooper & Jutz trio are touring throughout England and return home for some more shows later in the year.
Where are you from originally, when did you move to Nashville and why?
I was born in California, moved to Washington D.C. as a boy, and spent most of my years there until moving to Nashville in 2004. I decided to relocate to Nashville then because my band Last Train Home had just been picked up by a well-regarded booking agency, and we had made the decision to all quit our jobs and go for it full time. Nashville was geographically a more convenient place for a touring band, and the infrastructure here of management, labels, publicists, studios, and of course the plethora of inspiring musicians and songwriters, made Nashville the obvious place to be.
What are the first and the last records you bought, and where did you buy them? Were they CD, vinyl or digital?
The first albums I bought with my own money, as a 10-year-old, were Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Who’s Next. My most recent full album purchase was Ry Cooder’s latest, The Prodigal Son, CD version.
First and last live concerts that you’ve seen?
First was Peter, Paul and Mary at age five in Sacramento, I believe. Most recent was Nashville’s The Ornaments at 3rd & Lindsley in December 2018.
Whose star should be added to the Music City Walk of Fame?
Tom T. Hall, Bobby Bare, Mac Wiseman, Lloyd Green, Nanci Griffith, Phil Kaufman
Where do you go in Nashville for coffee and pizza?
Ugly Mugs on the east side which is walkable from my house. Five Points Pizza.
What’s your favorite record to ever come out of Nashville?
Oh man. Gonna go with Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde.
Where’s the best place to eat late night after a show?
Years ago, there were other answers, but now it’s my house.
The Bluebird calls and asks you to host an “In the Round.” Pick three local songwriters to join you.
I’d say Peter Cooper and Thomm Jutz, and I would mean it. But for the sake of spreading it around, I’ll go with Adam Wright, Kevin Gordon, and Taylor Swift (Can I still call her a Nashvillian? I’m really interested in where she chooses to go next as a songwriter.)
What are your favorite music venues to play in town?
The Station Inn and 3rd & Lindsley
Name a musician who you’d like to see move here?
A Washington D.C. hero of mine and frequent collaborator, Karl Straub.
Finally, what’s in your musical future?
I’m sure there will always be collaborations with my trio partners Peter Cooper and Thomm Jutz. And I’d like to make an album of breezy pop with lots of strings and horns. It would be nice to get my musical Hangtown Dancehall staged properly. Maybe there’s another album to be made with my band Last Train Home. And I’ve been thinking of a series of digital “singles,” A-sides and B-sides, with a bunch of different people and in a bunch of different styles.
Similarly, Thomas Jutz biographical details make him sound like a musician that all those who claim to follow sidetracks and detours all across the arts should know all bout this guy. Yes, I know I´m the owner and edotoir of a magazine bloke that claims to do exactly and I didn´t know about hims,… but come on, I´m a man who is very busy inretiremnt !
Thomm Jutz (left) is a German-born American singer, songwriter, producer and guitarist based in Nashville, Tennessee.He has worked with folk singer Nanci Griffith (as a member of her Blue Moon Orchestra), Eric Brace & Peter Cooper, Mary Gauthier, Mac Wiseman, Bobby Bare, Connie Smith, Marty Stuart, David Olney, Otis Gibbs, Kim Richey, Bill Anderson, Amy Speace, Milan Miller and Marc Marshall.
His songs have been recorded by Nanci Griffith, John Prine, Kim Richey, Junior Sisk, Kenny and Amanda Smith, Balsam Range, Buddy Melton, Milan Miller and Terry Baucom.Jutz co-wrote the top two singles of 2016 listed on the Bluegrass Today Airplay chart. Jutz signed with Mountain Home Music Company in 2019. New albums “To Live in Two Worlds – Vol 1 & 2” were released in 2020. Singles “Mill Town Blues”, “I Long to Hear Them Testify”, “Hartford’s Bend” and “Jimmie Rodgers Rode a Train” were released in 2019. He also signed as a writer with Asheville Music Publishing in 2018. “To Live In Two Worlds, Vol 1” was nominated for a 2021 Grammy Award in the Bluegrass category.
He is Grammy Nomination for Best Bluegrass Album 2020, IBMA Songwriter of the Year 2021, Recipient of two SESAC Awards, Nominated for IBMA Songwriter of the Year in 2017, 2018, 2019, Nominated for IBMA Album of the Year in 2017
Jutz is a Lecturer in the Songwriting Department at Belmont University in Nashville.
The big current news, though, is of the reléase of an album called I Sand The Son, a biographical tribute paid in song to the late bluegrass star Mac Wiseman. that features Alison Krauss and Jim Lauderdale among many others and the voice of the lat Mac Wiseman, too.
So I have learned from Peter that Whilst Brace and Jutz have their own recording careers they often played and toured as a duo when Peter Cooper was not available.
I have never got to see the trio or duo live over here in the UK as they tend to fly below the radar, he says. Anyway, I recently found they are touring here in May. The nearest venues are Southport and Biddulph -Stafford. I have booked for Stafford.
In the course of booking I found out that quite a number of those we might otherwise have seen at venues like Band on the Wall, a local Folk Club or some small Greater Manchester venue have passed through places like Southport and Biddulph who seem to have established promoters for these kind of gigs.
It seems to be a bit like when a lot of these artists did Upstairs at The Aldelphi in Preston and you tended to find out by being on the mailing list. That was probably as close as they got to Manchester.
By the way, Steve Earle tours here in June-nearest venues. Liverpool Phil and Buxton Opera House.
I Look forward to many more Sidetracks and Detour articles.
Your personal thoughts on the show you see and that of Steve Earle, should you attend, would also be much appreciated by our Sidetracks And Detours readers, … and its editor !
ASPIRATIONS AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
FOR REFERENCE ONLY
Prime Sources for this article are reported in the text and any photographs used have been selected from images fee to use sites. For further details see our post on 7th April
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