Road to Richmond
The Road to Richmond is my 5th volume of authentic songs from the time of the Civil War. As with the others, songs are a mix of north and south, of war themes and general popular music, of serious and comic songs. Also similar is the musical viewpoint of the collection; it is recorded not as professional musicians of the day, nor as a modern folk performance of old time songs. The musical viewpoint here is that of the common soldier, or a small group of them. So the performances are somewhat rustic, but the instruments and the styles of performance are correct for the time period. The 'milieu' is the camp fire, not the concert hall. The Road to Richmond accommodates the many loose ends I felt I had. A few should have been on other CD's, but somehow didn't get there before they filled up. A chunk of this collection reflects my efforts in learning the 'proper' knock-down, or 'banjo style,' used exclusively on this CD. My previous efforts were a mix of styles, all period correct, but not text-book proper. For the most part, this volume contains songs that fit important criteria besides all being authentic: I enjoy playing them, and have never recorded them. Notes on some of the songs: Marching Along, The Last Man of Beaufort, and The Seventh: These are all from Frank Moore's Songs of the Soldier's, published in 1864. Many other songs from this and my other volumes can be found there as well. Much of this book was songs sent to Mr. Moore by the soldiers themselves, with comments to the effect that these were popular with the boys. Many are regimental songs, soldier-written songs adapted to popular tunes of the day. In the case of The Seventh, the given air, Gilla Machree, has eluded me for a few years now. In the tradition of the soldiers themselves, I found an alternate, Yankee Doodle, that fit the meter of the words perfectly, and used it. This tune was often used for such songs. The opening recitation for Last Man is exactly as it was written in the book, probably published in a newspaper when it first appeared. Tramp Tramp Tramp is the third of George Root's trilogy of all-time great songs from this war. The others, Battle Cry of Freedom and Just Before the Battle, Mother are in earlier volumes. America is just a great old patriotic song that seems to have been fading in recent years. We'll Fight For Uncle Sam and Young America and Ould Ireland are broadside songs found in the Library of Congress collection. The given airs are Whiskey In The Jar and Darling Ould Stick, which are used in these versions. Jeanie belonged on the Night March CD as a song known to be sung by the soldiers of the 140th NY, but she somehow got overlooked. So that is remedied here, and the list of 140th songs is now complete. The balance of the first grouping of songs are all personal favorites of mine. Dundee is the first verse of Bonnie Dundee, on which Riding A Raid is based. J.E.B. Stuart was one of my favorite Confederate generals, and near the top of the list of people from that time I would like to meet if they ever give me the keys to the time machine, so Riding a Raid was a must for me. I had instruments worked out for Short Rations. I did a practice track vocal only to determine what key was closest to my comfort zone, and just sort of kept going and decided to leave out the instruments. It was fun to make. Old Black Joe and Yellow Rose are just wonderful songs. If I had to pick one song that I would say I was satisfied with, in terms of my performance, it would be my version of Yellow Rose. Richmond is a Hard Road is a song I used to do in performances, somewhat edited for time. For better or worse, here is the whole bloody thing. One modern songbook actually thought this was a song of Northern origin. You can perhaps tell I enjoy the most often deleted James River verse. By the way, this is not the title song. The CD title means much more to me than this song. The instrumentals are a diversion for me. They are not expert renditions of top-shelf jigs and reels, but rather the rustic efforts of some rather rudimentary works. In the world of reenacting music there are two general banjo impressions: Folks doing modern bluegrass style, and folks doing expert renditions of the professional minstrels. I offer a middle ground: the right instrument the right way, of more typical means for a soldier. This is a fancy rationalization that means I'm not that great at it, but I try to do it pretty much right. Following is a representation of a minstrel show, complete with bones and tambourine with the guitar and banjo. Try as I may, I just can't make my fiddle sound decent enough. One line is changed in Oh Susanna to make it less offensive. The altered line I use is from a post-war 19th century source. I mention it because I try to be historically accurate. The usual solution to this problem is to delete the verse, which is otherwise quite clever. So if you want to be perfectly accurate on this song, it is easy to find in any 19th century source. Oh yes, I substituted Soldier for Darkie in Yellow Rose as well, partially because of the same reason, and partly because I can't imagine the Confederate soldiers sang it original style all the time either. Roll Jordan Roll: A beautiful black spiritual; this is the version used in Slave Songs of the US. Some of the verses are from this book, and the lat couple are from The Civil War in Song and Story, edited by Frank Moore. The story is from a war-time news clipping. The whole book is such newspaper reprints, and the book is highly recommended, and fairly well available from rare book dealers. Ah the Voice of Bygone days. I found this years ago, before I ever thought of recording. I think my main purpose is to bring out songs not done by anyone else, and this is one of those. I always thought this would be a great closing song, but I never got a chance to use it for one reason or another. Now I have. I kind o think that says something to me. The Road to Richmond is a 71 minute time machine in song. It is as true as I know how to make it to sounding like these songs did 140 years ago when our ancestors sang them. I hope I did right by them. Your obedient servant, Jerry Ernst.