You may not have paid too much attention to the lessons on the Civil War in your American history class, but this lesson on the era might draw your interest if you're a music fan. The new compilation Divided & United collects 32 songs from the Civil War and features modern musicians performing them.
The project was the brainchild of Randall Poster, a Hollywood producer who's made a name for himself by selecting soundtracks for shows such as Boardwalk Empire and all of Wes Anderson's films. He hoped that by collecting musicians from multiple generations and having them perform songs of a similar theme, he could emphasize America's musical legacy.
"That's what hopefully I was trying to do in 'Divided & United,' was to celebrate traditions," he said. "Not only the traditions of the music of the Civil War, but by putting together artists where if you created the family tree of these artists, it takes you every direction. You're three or four degrees of separation from the likes of Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family and Elvis Presley."
Much of the music is from country and bluegrass performers. Among the Americana icons taking part in the project were Ralph Stanley, Loretta Lynn, Vince Gill, Cowboy Jack Clement and Steve Earle, whereas more recently popular artists include Ashley Monroe, Jamey Johnson and the Old Crow Medicine Show. There are non-country artists too, of course. Blues legend Taj Mahal, Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Starship, and even John Doe of Los Angeles punk icons X takes stabs at their own version of historical reenactments.
The most interesting aspect of the collection might be examining the period from multiple angles. There are Union songs, there are Confederate songs, and there are even tracks popularized by blackface minstrels. Certainly seems edgy now, but it provides a look into a bygone era.
Check out Lynn's contribution to the album: