The Civil War ushered in the 19th century in so many ways, transforming America and the world into the industrial age and everything that came with it, which included the rise of photography and music publishing, themselves the nascent beginnings of the pop music industry. Thousands of songs were written during the war, and thanks to the publishers, they proliferated -- hundreds of songs of valor, of sadness, of joy, of missing the girl back home, as well as songs describing the geography of battle across the full scale of human emotion. It wasn’t pop music exactly, but it was popular, and along with photography and a rapidly evolving print media, it all combined to make the Civil War the most fully documented war to date in history -- it was, in essence, the first modern war. This set features folksinger Tom Glazer (best known for his 1963 novelty song "On Top of Spaghetti”) singing some of these Civil War tunes in his clear, measured everyman voice over light guitar, banjo, and autoharp accompaniment. It’s nothing fancy as far as studio production goes, but it’s probably close to how some of these songs were sung during the war. There’s a little bit of everything included here, from songs that work like travel diaries (“Marching Through Georgia” and “Cumberland Gap”) to stark and poignant expressions of the casualties of war (“Somebody’s Darling”), to reminders of what was at stake (“The Year of Jubilo [Kingdom Coming]”), to offbeat but easily sung songs that simply lifted the spirit (“Goober Peas”). This is an album full of history highlighted by song notes from University of Maryland musicologist Patrick Warfield, who places each song in cultural context, all of which makes A Treasury of Civil War Songs the audio equivalent of a well-documented PBS special.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett