Jed Marum,
Fighting Tigers of Ireland
(Boston Road, 2004)

Jed Marum has a confident knack of taking the history of Ireland and the United States of America, combining them with music and creating some mini-epics. This CD, subtitled A U.S. Civil War Collection, does on a single CD a task similar to the great PBS television series on the war.

Many of the tracks are new compositions, but Marum also includes a few traditional songs that dovetail very neatly into the story.

The CD opens with the title track from Marum's pen. It is a live recording and is a fitting opener.

Marum credits research by David Kincaid on the tracks "Boys of the Irish Brigade" and "Pat Murphy of Meagher's Brigade." The former is an excellent song from the tradition that uses imagery from ancient Troy. This is an indicator of the fact that classical texts were often used in the hedge schools of Ireland.

Although the CD is titled as Irish, our Scots cousins are included. This is especially well defined on an excellent new song, "Down Where the Green Grass Grows." It tells a tale of a young man -- one of so many -- as he writes to a sweetheart on the night before marching away to battle. It is sad to remember that over a century later there are still young and not so young men and women writing similar letters.

The feeling of euphoria that fills people at the start of wars is captured to great effect in "Sweet Ellen Joyce." Here an 18-year-old gives a sprightly song expecting it to be over soon. Fifty odd years later in 1914, young men would express similar thoughts: "It'll be over by Christmas." Sadly, it seldom is, and we seldom learn.

Jed Marum is obviously extremely well read on the period as his songs are usually based on memoirs or letters from the war. "Mama's Lily" is a case in point, based on a true story from William McCarter's tale, "My Life in the Irish Brigade." The lyrics and their vision of deaths of civilians or collateral damage cannot fail to move the listener.

He is brilliant in the way he finds the personal in the epic tale. "Prayer from Little Round Top" unites the Great Famine in Ireland and the U.S. Civil War to show how the natural disaster in Europe often provided fodder for the man-made disaster in America.

In 14 tracks, Jed Marum brings us back to a traumatic period in American history and relates it to the natives of a green island thousands of miles away. Listening to this album in 2004, you must think on the futility of fighting. It relates a vast period in history to the individual, just as the bullet relates to an individual, not a state.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 29 May 2004

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