No Witness In The Laurel But The Leaves from Tim Stafford and Thomm Jutz

Mountain Fever Records has dropped a second single today from their upcoming duo project with singer/songwriters Tim Stafford and Thomm Jutz. Both men are well renowned for their original songs, Tim for his contributions to Blue Highway and dozens of other artists, and Thomm under his own name and likewise to many other recording acts. During the pandemic shutdowns, the two began to write together using online communication, so when the restrictions were lifted, a joint recording just made sense.

Today’s single bears the curious title, No Witness In The Laurel But The Leaves. It’s a waltz time ballad of historical fiction, drawn from the era where feuding clans shed blood in the Blue Ridge regions of Kentucky and West Virginia, often after the reasons for the conflict were forgotten by survivors. Stafford has long been recognized for his work in this realm, and listening to this newest, it’s clear his co-writer excels in it as well.

Tim offered a few words of explanation. 

No Witness In The Laurel But The Leaves is about a fictional feud in Eastern Kentucky, much like Hatfield/McCoy and other Appalachian mountain wars that are well-known and mythologized to this day. Clans were often divided on either side after the Civil War, leading to many decades-long feuds, with dozens killed. The point of the title is simple: no witnesses, no problem. But we’re left with the song’s final line: And when children ask what the killing was for, honestly, what can you say?”

Tim and Thomm both play guitar on the track, with Stafford taking the lead vocal and Jutz the harmony. They are supported by Ron Block on banjo, Tammy Rogers on fiddle, Shaun Richardson on mandolin, and Mark Fain on bass. Listen for the unexpected six major chord in the verses which gives the song its own special twist.

It’s a good’n, bringing to mind the rich catalog of murder ballads that have endured over the centuries.

No Witness In The Laurel But The Leaves is available now from popular download and streaming services online. Radio programmers can get the track via AirPlay Direct.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.