Jed Marum, |
Cross Over the River
(Boston Road, 2006)
If you enjoyed the fantastic television series Civil War you must seek out the recordings of Jed Marum. The TV gave us a powerful visual depiction of those sad violent years. Marum gives us history in song and music that is every bit as powerful and awe-inspiring. He has a wonderful facility for taking these stories of ordinary people and big events and making them real.
His use of personal papers and poetry from the period is exceptional. But he never forgets his Irish roots nor the often-underestimated contribution of the Irish to that conflict.
The album opens with "Monaghan's Lament," about an Irish-born colonel from New Orleans. Most of us only know William Quantrill from the film about his raiders. On the track "One Bloody Friday" we hear a fictional view of the Lawrence Massacre as he might have delivered it.
Marum uses the traditional music of the period to great effect by adding extra verses to elucidate the story. This is particularly effective on "Shenandoah." He gives us a spirited rendition of "Cindy," a song of the period that is rather poignant as we remember that in the midst of war such popular ditties were composed and sung and people tried to live ordinary lives. He includes a new song in a similar vein, "Come Back Katy," to reinforce this message of the non-fighting periods of the war.
Getting back to the war he uses the dying words of Stonewall Jackson as the chorus on "Cross Over the River." You can almost taste the powder in the air and see the tranquil scene after a battle with still water and mist. In the best tradition of folk music, he sets his lyrics to familiar tunes for great effect on "Buckland Races." The tune used is "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp," but Irish listeners will recognise another song.
Marum includes one of the great songs of that or any period as his penultimate track. Foster's "Hard Times" must be one of the most recorded songs of all time but I never tire of hearing it. For me the best track on offer here is "After the Dance." Here he paints a wonderful picture of the hall after the dancers leave and fiddle strings cease to vibrate and reminds us that life goes on.
This is an essential CD if you like good music, thoughtful lyrics or a sense of history.
16 June 2007