Eric Brace and Peter Cooper (from the album C & O Canal on Red Beet Records) - The musical starting point for Eric Brace and Peter Cooper was a shared geography. Long before the duo came together in East Nashville, they were based a little further north, separately, in the Washington D.C. music scene. The plan for their latest release, the Thomm Jutz-produced C & O Canal, was to offer a tribute to the Folk and Bluegrass songs, people, and places that were a part of the D.C. vibrant musical breeding ground. For Eric Brace, he recalled that ‘the road to here began for me in the '70s, when a Wilson High School friend took me to the Birchmere to see the Seldom Scene. Their Thursday night residency became a regular destination, opening a hundred musical doors. They were gods, but they had day jobs. They were just folks, but they flew above the rest of us’. Peter Cooper remembers the rules he learned to get in, ‘I’d get to the Birchmere by five p.m. No reserved seating. Doors opened at six. Show at eight-thirty. First one in got his pick of tables. My first time at the Birch was on my fifteenth birthday. We got there at seven and sat in the back. After that, I always got my pick of tables. I’d sit there on Thursdays, staring up at the crease in Mike Auldridge’s jeans. He played dobro for the Seldom Scene, the band that opened me up to a world of acoustic roots music: Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, the Stanley Brothers, Paul Craft, Tony Rice, John Prine, and all the others.
Beyond the theme of C&O Canal, the album signals a sturdier foundation Eric Brace and Peter Cooper as a duo. Their last effort, The Comeback Album, showcased songwriting talents offering thought-provoking humor and well-placed asides. On C&O Canalthe performance is one of graceful country love songs; sadness born with heads held high, deeds seen a badge of pride, and desires as rooted as firmly as the end of love laid out on the tracks. John Starling of the Seldom Scene sees two credits on the album, lending a track for the title and on the beautiful border sway of “He Rode All the Way to Texas”. History repeats with a version of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “John Wilkes Booth” and trades a long trek in return for one more minute in Emmylou Harris’ “Boulder to Birmingham”. Eric Brace starts off the weather forecast as the clouds gather on Karl Straub’s “Rainy Night in Texas” while “Blue Ridge” rises up on mandolin strings as Peter Cooper becomes the tour guide introduction over a banjo beat.