Various Artists

White Mansions

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This album could only have appeared in the late 1970s -- in the wake of the American Bicentennial, at a point when the White House was occupied by its first southerner in 100 years, and the former Confederacy had regained its pride sufficiently to try and present its side of the Civil War as a basis for mainstream music. White Mansions is a country music equivalent of a TV mini-series, with Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, John Dillon and Steve Cash (from the Ozark Mountain Daredevils) singing songs written for specific "roles," telling the story of life in the Confederate States of America during the years 1861-65. It's entertaining and maybe even diverting, even though there's not much to the songs (written by Paul Kennerley). As with projects such as Jeff Wayne's sci-fi rock concept album War of the Worlds, the dramatic "roles" are empty baggage carried by the album. There is some diversity here -- a waltz for "The Last Dance," white blues elsewhere, and ballads, field hollers, and marches (though little here, apart from "The Union Mare & The Confederate Grey," matches the real songs of the period) -- and the album is entertaining, and it's quicker than watching Gone With The Wind and more rewarding, despite some inaccuracies in the background notes (Abraham Lincoln had no intention of abolishing slavery!). The CD mastering is clean, and the performances, especially Colter's, are sincere, as is the mood of sadness that pervades the later sections of the album. In addition to Leadon, Eric Clapton is also present on guitar -- the playing (surprise) is all good.

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