Release Date: Nov 5, 2013
Record label: ATO
Genre(s): Bluegrass, Country, Folk, Americana, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Neo-Traditional Folk, Alternative Country-Rock, Traditional Bluegrass, Traditional Folk, Old-Timey
Randall Poster is a film music supervisor, responsible for the soundtracks for everything from Velvet Goldmine to Boardwalk Empire, but his latest project is a 32-track double album exploring the music of the US civil war. He revives songs popular with soldiers on both sides, from marches to pained laments and sentimental ballads, as well as those of the slaves whose future would be decided by the outcome. And he is helped by a remarkable cast of country and folk singers, from Taj Mahal, on a swinging Down By the Riverside; to Steve Earle and Dirk Powell on the weepie Just Before the Battle, Mother; and Dolly Parton joining Stuart Duncan on the pained Listen to the Mockingbird, a favourite of Abraham Lincoln.
Nearly 150 years after the Civil War ended, America is still both fascinated and haunted by the events that tore the country apart while defining a vision of this nation that in many respects stands to this day. Plenty of popular songs and stories have been written about the war and its impact, but fewer Americans are aware of just how many songs dealing with the conflict and its human consequences emerged between 1861 and 1865. Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War is an ambitious effort to study the songs of the era with fresh eyes and ears; here, 32 artists interpret popular songs from the Civil War years, some in styles that reflect the way they were performed in the 19th century and others appearing in arrangements that are radically contemporary.
The music of the American civil war still polarises. Re-enactment buffs favour battle hymns; folklorists like their fiddles preserved in aspic. This two-CD collection, helmed by film music co-ordinator Randall Poster, aims for compassionate neutrality, lining up big guns (Loretta Lynn, Steve Earle) alongside Johnny-come-latelies (Pokey LaFarge). Across 32 tracks it tries to capture the experience of an era from all sides.
“Americana” is a synthetic term, at least in the contemporary meaning. But historically, some music is organically Americana because it just is. It’s part of our nation’s DNA. Songs from the Civil War era qualify, certainly – painfully so. But do they still have enough life, enough juice ….