My new CD, The American War 1861-1865, grew out of a lifelong interest in history, particularly that of the Civil War.
Here are four MP3s from the record. To download, simply RIGHT-CLICK (CONTROL-CLICK for Macintosh users) and select "Download link to disk...". Depending on the browser will depend on the exact verbage.
the summer of mid-2001, I decided to write the Civil War project with
the idea of marketing it through the Internet, the mail, and live
appearances not only at re-enactments, but festivals, bookstores,
historical society meetings, all of which has happened in the ensuing
years. I've also lectured and played guitar in a few high school
history classes around the country.
I think it's essential that people retain an interest in our nation's history, and the Civil War was the defining episode, as I say in the liner notes. I began writing down song ideas in mid-summer of 2001, and in Sept. did the vast majority of the work in a self-imposed window of two weeks. The window was supposed to be Sept. 11-25, but obviously I got little or no work done Sept. 11th. I did feel a bit foolish burrowing 140 years into the past while the world around me was in such upheaval, but ultimately it is my conviction that unless we study and understand history, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes.
The idea was to use only instruments that existed at the time of the Civil War, and to record live in the studio. We tried to evoke the feeling of the musicians playing in camp during some precious leisure time between marches and duty, perhaps around a blazing fire...
The Terry Brothers
Roland (mandolin, fiddle), Tim (fiddle) and Harold (banjo) Terry from North Carolina are authentic old timey and bluegrass pickers since the day they could lift an instrument. The Library of Congress has recorded Uncle E.B. Terry, and their Doc Branch Band has been in the family for four generations. They are much in demand as the premier square dance and bluegrass band in their area of the Piedmont, and they have several CDs out of both live and studio performances. They live on the same land that's been in their family since 1799, and the Terrys sent five brothers to the Confederate Army. Miraculously, all five came home. Working with these gentlemen was an exceptional treat. They are the real deal.
wanted to work with Gordon since we met in Tallahassee in the mid 1980's
and happily, The American War provided that opportunity.
Gordon hails from Kentucky, and has recorded in Nashville with Charlie
McCoy, among others. In North Florida, he is one of the guiding lights
of the Irish music scene, and leads or plays in several old time bands.
Gordon and his wife Jane work lots of square dances and concerts, and
own Gordon's String Music (email@example.com), home of Martin guitars and
square deals. On the CD, he plays mandolin, banjo and harmonica, and I
didn't even get to his guitar and autoharp talents. Gordon is a one-man
crew, a thorough professional and a joy to work with.
I'd also like to recognize M.E. Hearn on background vocals, and Reed Mahoney on harmonica and the recitation on General Orders No. 9.
THE AMERICAN WAR
Track by Track
1. First Salvo/Charleston (Reid/Traditional) - Once upon a time I tried to learn the banjo. First Salvo came from a melody I wrote on the five string many years ago. Charleston is an old tune, and poignant to me, as that's where one side of my family hails from.
Sullivan Ballou (Reid) - At the end of the first segment of Ken Burns'
series The Civil War, a letter by Major Sullivan Ballou
to his wife Sarah back in Rhode Island is given a beautiful reading by
actor Paul Roebling. Educated people of that day were so wonderfully eloquent. It was inspirational.
3. The Girl I Left Behind (Traditional) - I thought the interweaving of original songs with instrumentals of the Civil War period made a nice mix.
4. Fredericksburg (Reid) - The thought of men making thirteen...thirteen charges up a steep hill into a firmly entrenched line exceeds my imagination. The courage of the soldiers in the War defies belief.
5. Silver Dagger (Traditional) - There are words; it's a very dark old mountain song in contrast to its lovely melody.
6. May 10, 1863 (Reid) - I don't know that if Stonewall Jackson had lived, whether it would have changed the outcome of the War. I theorize that if he had, he would have fought on for another 30 years, if possible.
7. Lee Crossing The Potomac (Traditional) - An old martial fiddle tune from the early 1800's. I exercised artistic license and changed the title for this project.
8. Sorry, General Lee (Reid) - Invading the North was a controversial move on Lee's part in both 1862 and '63. Many Southrons were concerned over moving into a role other than defending their homeland. The bond between Lee and his troops was unparalleled in military history, in my opinion.
9. Thomas Martin (Oja-Dunaway) - Don Oja-Dunaway is well known for his large body of vital, beautiful Civil War works. Thomas Martin was a guerilla that'd been held for several years and was admired and esteemed by his captors. Allegedly he was the last casualty of the War.
10. Home Sweet Home (Traditional) - There's no place like it. Probably the most popular tune of the day.
11. Cold Harbor (Reid) - Lee had Gettysburg, Grant had Cold Harbor, and they were arguably the two most accomplished and thoughtful generals of the War. For the rank and file, the outcome was the same.
12. Jordan Branch (Reid) - During the writing part of this project, this tune came to me in a dream, fully complete. It has its roots in an old instrumental of mine.
13. Kennesaw Line (Oja-Dunaway) - Probably Don's best-known song, it has been recorded by Gamble Rogers, Claire Lynch, and twice by me. Don Oja-Dunaway holds forth every afternoon at The Milltop Tavern in St. Augustine, FL and has for over 35 years. Stop by and hear his version.
14. Shady Grove (Traditional) - Gordon performs this solo, and I wouldn't have minded if he'd gone on for half an hour.
15. Uncle Billy (Reid) - You couldn't mention Tecumseh Sherman's name in my Grandmother's house. She was from Charleston and merely referred to him as "that devil".
16. Cruel War (Traditional/Reid) - I admit I'm shameless enough to write a bridge to a 400-year-old song. My accompanying musicians deserve a lot of credit for putting up with me.
17. I Been All Around This World (Traditional) - I hadn't heard this song for years until I attended a Pat McCune concert, and thanks to Pat for doing some research on it for me. This one is a partisan song of Kentucky. Sometimes the actions of the "unofficial" troops outdid the Regulars in savagery and intensity.
18. All My Sorrows/General Orders No. 9 (Traditional/Lee) - An old spiritual with its roots in Jamaica coupled with Lee's farewell to his troops after Appomattox. This idea came from a combination of two friends, Reed Mahoney and Mickey Newbury.
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