Civil War Music Part III- Soundtracks

by Matthew Young on August 14, 2008 · 2 comments

I apologize for not posting Part III earlier, the last few weeks have been very hectic.  To see the other music reviews, please visit

Civil War Music Part I

Civil War Music Part II

Here in the 3rd of my 3 part series, I look at soundtracks of the Civil War Era.  The ones that come to my mind first are soundtrack from The Civil War Series by Ken Burns, Glory, Gettysburg, More Songs and Music from Gettysburg, and Gods and Generals.

I was in junior high when I bought the audio cassette Soundtrack for the Civil War Series by Ken Burns.  It was a remarkable documentary that produced an equally remarkable soundtrack.  The Ashokan Farewell track, even though it is NOT from the Civil War period, will forever be linked with the conflict because of how it is used by Burns.  There is also a very haunting rendition of “Johnny has gone for a soldier” that will instantly make the listener visualize the killing fields of the Hornet’s Nest at Shiloh, the Bloody Lane at Antietam, or the Devil’s Den at Gettysburg.  I give this soundtrack 5 out of 5 stars!

Next is the soundtrack for the Hollywood Motion Picture Glory, starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, and Cary Elwes.  Let me start out by quoting two Amazon.com reviews on the soundtrack-

Director Ed Zwick’s stirring, tragic Civil War epic inspires a gorgeous, deeply moving score from James Horner, who mirrors the story’s bitter ironies and ultimate outcome through a main theme and recurring motifs that emphasize the elegiac over the conventionally heroic. While martial drums inevitably rustle beneath Horner’s autumnal charts, the somber main theme, when stated by the Harlem Boys Choir, is at once beautiful and heartbreaking, telegraphing the fate of the story’s regiment of African-American volunteers in the Union Army. The climactic battle scene, itself a marvel of cinematic impressionism, elicits a more urgent, insistent Latin theme reminiscent of Carl Orff, and just as dramatic.

So memorable, in fact, that some of its rich cures have been recycled by other filmmakers and Horner himself. More than any other single work, it’s Glory that’s responsible for Horner’s remarkable rise to the top of his profession in the ’90s.

Every time I hear this CD as the background music for some other show or movie, I can instantly recognzie it as coming from Glory.  The movie, while not entirely accuarte, is probably (in this author’s opinion) the best Hollywood movie ever made about the subject of the Civil War.  Again, I give it a 5 out of 5 stars.

Next I tackle the Gettysburg soundtrack.  It is an emotional roller coster of music from the thundering Main Title, to the softness of General Lee at Twilight and the savageness of Devil’s Den.  It is definately one of my favorites, but then again Gettysburg the movie is also one of my favorites.  I bought my current copy (my second since I wore out the first one) at the Gettysburg National Battlefield Park and listened to it throughout my drive around the battlefield.  It definately added a very personal touch to the tour, espically when we came to the open field of Pickett’s Charge and Little Round Top.  I know I’m sounding like a broken record here, but I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.

This CD came out a few years after the release of the initial movie Soundtrack and features many of the period songs that were left out of the original CD like the Bonnie Blue Flag, The Fall of Paris, and a sung version of Kathleen Mavourneen.  It is a good mixture of songs from the period, but I am going to give it a 4 out of 5 stars because the CD is less then 45 minutes in length.  Other then that, great CD!

Finally, we have the soundtrack to Gods and Generals.  The opening title is great, as was the movie opening.  I can say that I honetly like the soundtrack better then the movie, which at times, even for a OCCW buff, was SLOW.  Mary Fahl’s “Going Home” is a great song, but I didn’t care for the last song by Bob Dylan.  It just didn’t strike me as a good fit to the rest of the soundtrack.  I like the Gettysburg soundtrack better, but this one is good too.  4 out of 5 stars.

Thanks for reading!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Skip Haynes August 14, 2008 at 6:44 pm

NEW MUSIC FROM THE CIVIL WAR – “THE H.L. HUNLEY ERA”
Music, Songs & Atmosphere of the American Civil War

A new CD created by Skip Haynes and Dana Walden with lyrics and music inspired by the exploits of the famed Confederate undersea diving boat CSS Hunley – who completed the first successful sinking of a warship by a submarine in history is now available.

“Although we don’t normally create this kind of music, we were asked by the Friends of the Hunley to compose four songs about the CSS Hunley and its crews in the style and composition of the music contemporary to the period,” says Skip Haynes. “We were also asked to create versions of popular songs of the times – both North and South. We did intensive research on the music and lyrics of the period before recording the songs of the The H. L. Hunley Era. It was an incredibly interesting and compelling project to be involved with – both musically and historically.”

The H. L. Hunley Era contains four original songs inspired directly by the CSS Hunley, its crew, its last commander, Lt. George Dixon and the engagement from which the Hunley never returned. It also contains four traditional ACW songs presented with traditional tempos, lyrics, keys the song were originally written in and arranged as they would have been at that time.

• “The Introduction” – go back in time to join the crew of the Hunley on their final sortie.
• “The Hunley Went A Raidin’” – celebrating all three of the Hunley’s crews.
• “One More Mile” – the last command of Lt. Dixon and his crew.
• ‘Dixon’s Gold”” – the haunting story of lost love and a gold coin
• “It’s A Great American tragedy” – a tribute to all soldiers and sailors – Blue and Gray.
• “Dixie’s Land” – written by Daniel D. Emmet
• “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” – written by Patrick S. Gilmore
• “Eatin’ Goober peas” – Anonymous
• ‘The Yellow Rose Of Texas” – Anonymous

The H. L. Hunley Era also contains nine soundscapes created specifically for the H. L. Hunley Exhibit.

The CD is available at: http://www.petcds.com/Hunley.htm or http://www.petcds.com and click on H.L. Hunley Era

For more information, review copies or mp3s contact:
Skip Haynes
323-822-1764
animalco@pacbell.net

To hear sound samples:
http://www.petcds.com/Hunley.htm

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Brendan Hamilton August 16, 2008 at 6:34 pm

Though it’s not technically a soundtrack, I’d highly recommend “Back Roads to Cold Mountain.” Cold Mountain author Charles Frazier and with folk musician (New Lost City Ramblers) / photographer / musicologist John Cohen assembled a great compilation of old recordings from Smithsonian Folkways’ vast archives. The songs cover a variety of Appalachian styles, from gospel choir to solo ballads to minstrelly banjo & fiddle tunes. They’re mostly pretty obscure titles, but well worth a listen. The liner notes provide a great read. Many of the songs in this album are also used in the actual “Cold Mountain” soundtrack.

It’s one major drawback is that not all the songs are accurate to the CW era. For example, the mandolin (also depicted in the hand’s of Jack White’s character in the film “Cold Mountain”) makes a couple appearances here, even though it would not have been prevalent in CW Appalachia.

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