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Andy Whitman

Civil War Songs

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Inspired by this, I'm attempting to compile a playlist of Civil War songs; in particular, songs by contemporary songwriters about or set during the American Civil War. What I'm NOT looking for is a batch of songs that were popular during the Civil War era -- The Battle Hymn of the Republic, The Battle Cry of Freedom, Dixie, The Bonnie Blue Flag, etc. Nor am I looking for those quaint fiddle pieces like "Ashokan Farewell" that Ken Burns used in his PBS documentary. What I want are songs about the Civil War, but written by musicians more or less informed by folk and rock 'n roll. I figured that since boys with electric guitars have called themselves Manassas, Shiloh, and Antietam, there might be something to the trend. Here's what I have so far. Can anyone else add to the list?

Steve Earle -- Ben McCullough

Steve Earle -- Taneytown

Steve Earle -- Dixieland

Holopaw -- Abraham Lincoln

Justin Townes Earle -- Lone Pine Hill

Vigilantes of Love -- Andersonville

Uncle Tupelo -- Chickamauga

Jim Lauderdale -- Sandy Ford (Barbara Lee)

Andy Stewart -- By the Hush

Norman Blake and Tony Rice -- Lincoln's Funeral Train

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'Mick Ryan's Lament,' on Tim O'Brien's 'Two Journeys' CD - more about Little Big Horn, but its title character is a Civil War vet

'Laughlin Boy,' on Tracy Grammer's 'Flower of Avalon' CD - the plight of a Southern pacifist during the Civil War


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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Great list.

There's also The Lost Dogs In the Distance, which hits the daily double of being both a Civil War song and a ghost tune.

It's hard to believe that, unless I'm forgetting something, the closest thing to a Civil War song in the Drive-By Truckers canon is from the third verse of The Southern Thing about a grandfather shot at Shiloh.

I was not familiar with The Brandos until this morning, but I kind of like this tune Gettysburg:

Edited because I just remembered Cross the Green Mountains from Dylan's Tell Tale Signs. I wasn't sure if it was specific to a Civil War soldier or just to a soldier in general, but a quick google search reveals it also appeared on the soundtrack to the Civil War film Gods and Generals. Close enough for me.

Edited by J. Henry Waugh

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I'm English, so please forgive me if I'm lyrically illiterate, but I understand Peter Case's "Wilderness" to have one verse from the perspective of a Civil War soldier.

Also, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (The Band)?


"The core purpose of art is a survival mechanism, and the way it helps us survive is by making us attentive." Milton Glaser

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Scott Miller (once of the V-Roys) had two songs on his first album with his band The Commonwealth, Thus Always To Tyrants. Entitled "Dear Sarah" and "Highland Country Boy."

The most recent Son Volt record had that song about the Mississippi riverboat disaster, in which the profiteering captain of the Sultana overloaded his vessel with returning Union POW's at $5 a head, the boiler blew in the middle of the night and hundreds died. But honestly, it might be the worst Farrar-penned song laid to tape, in my humble opinion. I think he was going for a sense of dread, but it just feels...limp.

Memphis-based Cory Branan also has a (much better) song on the subject, "The Wreck of the Sultana." I don't know if it's been recorded, I've only seen him play it live. And there is a youtube video (that I can't view at work right now so I hope this does it justice):

[Re-editing this because I hate to harsh on Jay Farrar too much]

Michelle Shocked, "Shaking Hands (Soldier's Joy)", was an outstanding track on a great album. And when Farrar takes his vocal turn the song really takes off.

and a few more:

Jolie Holland, "Faded Coat of Blue"

Peter Paul & Mary, "The Cruel War"

The Decembrists, "Yankee Bayonet"

Johnny Cash (and several others no doubt), "Johnny Reb"

Inspired by this, I'm attempting to compile a playlist of Civil War songs; in particular, songs by contemporary songwriters about or set during the American Civil War. What I'm NOT looking for is a batch of songs that were popular during the Civil War era -- The Battle Hymn of the Republic, The Battle Cry of Freedom, Dixie, The Bonnie Blue Flag, etc. Nor am I looking for those quaint fiddle pieces like "Ashokan Farewell" that Ken Burns used in his PBS documentary. What I want are songs about the Civil War, but written by musicians more or less informed by folk and rock 'n roll. I figured that since boys with electric guitars have called themselves Manassas, Shiloh, and Antietam, there might be something to the trend. Here's what I have so far. Can anyone else add to the list?

Steve Earle -- Ben McCullough

Steve Earle -- Taneytown

Steve Earle -- Dixieland

Holopaw -- Abraham Lincoln

Justin Townes Earle -- Lone Pine Hill

Vigilantes of Love -- Andersonville

Uncle Tupelo -- Chickamauga

Jim Lauderdale -- Sandy Ford (Barbara Lee)

Andy Stewart -- By the Hush

Norman Blake and Tony Rice -- Lincoln's Funeral Train

Edited by Ward in SC

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R.E.M.'s Swan Swan H, while not necessarily a Civil War song, can probably qualify at least as a Civil War reenactment song.

ha! It's a pistol-hot cup of rhyme, to be sure. I almost included it in my list.

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