Human agency in a time of great historical drama is not often captured in song… but when the human at the center of the story is a common, everyday person, there can be no better way to tell the story. God Didn’t Choose Sides: Civil War True Stories About Real People is the first volume of an important musical project that is expected to be a trilogy. The series offers contemporary composers the opportunity to turn their song-crafting skills into historiographical instruments.
The album is a collection of original songs (about loved ones lost in war, brave acts of kindness, common selflessness, enduring faith and belief in brotherhood) during the United States Civil War. The album includes 12 original songs inspired by journals, stories and artifacts from soldiers, civilians and politicians during the Civil War. Also included on the recording is the traditional song There is a Fountain performed by the Gap Creek Quartet (Dale Ann Bradley, Steve Gulley, Don Gulley & Vic Graves). These are simple, yet powerful, songs about the mostly unsung heroes who gave their lives (or had their lives totally turned upside down) during the War Between the States.
Any album that featured Dale Ann Bradley is an album I look forward to; she has a soulful tenderness that is unmatched, and this album is full of songs that deserve such talent. Songs like “A Picture of Three Children,” sung by Russell Moore. The song tells of a woman who discovers that she is a widow when reads in the newspaper about a soldier who held tightly to a photograph of three children while he died. That photograph, she knew, was of her own three young children, and that the dying soldier was her husband. If you are ready to hear what just might be the next bluegrass artist that you can say you “discovered” before all your friends did, check out track 11 (“The River Man,” sung by Dave Adkins). The song spins the tale of a freed slave who “ran a secret freedom train by dark of night” to help escaped slaves find the freedom that was so central to the struggle.
The solidly-produced album features some top bluegrass, country and folk artists including: Steve Gulley, Dale Ann Bradley, Marty Raybon, Ronnie Bowman, Carrie Hassler, Brad Gulley, Tim Stafford, Rickey Wasson, Dave Adkins, Russell Moore, The Lonesome River Band and the Gap Creek Quartet.
Songs concerning the Civil War are not uncommon in the bluegrass and folk genres. The songs that have been passed down from generation to generation of musician are a wonderful testimony to the subject, but this album offers contemporary songwriters the chance to add to the Civil War songbook. Each of the album’s 13 songs are based on historical evidence, and tell a story about an ordinary person negotiating through the many battlefields of war. These are songs that will remind you of music’s ability to tell a story that had so many tears, so many moments of swelling with pride, so many secret agonies, so many potential narrators with just as many different endings… so many sides.
To preview or purchase this album on iTunes, click here.