About The 1861 Project
As America observes the sesquicentennial of The American Civil War, that historic conflict still resonates today with lessons that can be expressed in the language, stories and songs of the present. Inspired by their shared passion for American history and their love for their adopted home in the American south, musical colleagues Thomm Jutz, Peter Cronin and Paul Schatzkin have collaborated to create The 1861 Project, a one-of-a-kind collection of songs that imagine the lives of the real people who lived through and fought the American Civil War.
With A-list guitarist/producer/songwriter Jutz (Nanci Griffith, Mary Gauthier) at the helm, the acoustic, roots-based, Americana sound of The 1861 Project comes brilliantly to life with the help of songwriting and creative direction from Cronin, executive production from Schatzkin, and stirring performances from some of Nashville’s finest singers and songwriters, including country legend John Anderson, Grand Ole Opry star Marty Stuart, Americana stalwart Dana Cooper, rising Bluegrass star Chris Jones, and a host of others. Under Jutz’ direction, these distinctive artists have collaborated to create a musical collection that not only explores this historically rich era, but also seeks out the wisdom and warnings latent in countless Civil War stories.
Brought together by their interest in the Civil War and their shared belief in the inspirational and restorative power of music, Jutz, Cronin, and Schatzkin were naturally drawn to the stories of everyday people who experienced the war. The 1861 Project pushes beyond the broad strokes of Civil War history with compelling, emotional songs. “I Have” tells of a man counting his fallen friends as he walks the hundreds of barefoot miles home from 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, while the exuberant “Gospel Train” is sung in the voice of a runaway slave “riding” the Underground Railroad to freedom.
The songs on The 1861 Project explore this fascinating history from the perspective of the people who lived it, relating these stories from an entirely new and fresh perspective. These songs relay a message of hope and community, reflecting on the issues that drove the country to civil war without rancor or partisanship.
“This project seeks to bring change via affirmation, not defamation,” Schatzkin explains. “Though the Civil War was won by the North, the inequality at the heart of the fight remains an issue that continues to be worked out in American society. This music is our way of contributing to that effort.”
The founding principles of America, and the great fight over those ideals by the Union and the Confederacy are especially relevant and poignant to German-born Project producer Thomm Jutz, who is currently in the midst of the naturalization process to become an American citizen. It’s what gives Jutz – and The 1861 Project – such a unique perspective, and it’s at the heart of his heartfelt desire to express that distinctly American idea through music.
The sounds, the stories, and the people that populate The 1861 Project are uniquely American, and deeply human.
“We love our country, but not in a ‘my country right or wrong’ way,” Schatzkin says. “In the song ‘Ridin’ Like a Rebel,’ the lyrics state ‘One thing can not be denied, brave men fought on either side.’ We’re presenting the Civil War story in a non-partisan manner, in the hope of initiating a sincere discussion about what the Civil War means in American society today.”