Sunday, January 8, 2023

Sunday morning music


A few days ago, Kim du Toit recommended the album "White Mansions" as his daily earworm.  I'd never heard it, or even heard of it, so I looked up more information.  Wikipedia reports:

White Mansions is a 1978 concept album written by English singer-songwriter Paul Kennerley which imagines the lives of American Southerners in the Confederacy during the Civil War. The songs were performed by country singers, each portraying different characters in an attempt to show the Confederacy and the concept of "Southern pride" through their eyes. The album's vocalists included Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, John Dillon and Steve Cash. Eric Clapton played guitar on several tracks. The album charted at #38 on the Country Billboard chart and #181 on the Billboard 200.

There's more at the link.

I'm not a major fan of country music, but I am a student of history.  I was intrigued by the concept of a music album trying to encompass the totality of society, culture, warfare, and the greatest destruction ever inflicted by the United States upon itself and its people;  so I listened to it.  I'm not sure I like it, but I'm certainly impressed.  Its perspectives on the people and events of the time ring true to anyone who's studied the period.

I suppose many of my readers aren't familiar with the album, either:  so here's the whole thing.  The track listing is:

  1. "Story to Tell (The Preface)" – 2:52 Performed by Polly
  2. Dixie, Hold On" – 3:14 Performed by The Drifter
  3. "Join Around the Flag" – 2:16 Performed by Matthew
  4. "White Trash" – 3:55 Performed by Caleb
  5. "Last Dance and the Kentucky Racehorse" – 5:26 Performed by Matthew and Polly
  6. "Southern Boys" – 2:58 Performed by Caleb
  7. "Union Mare and the Confederate Grey" – 3:53 Performed by The Drifter
  8. "No One Would Believe a Summer Could Be So Cold" – 2:59 Performed by Matthew
  9. "The Southland's Bleeding" – 4:12 Performed by The Drifter
  10. "Bring Up the Twelve Pounders" – 0:26 Performed by Matthew
  11. "They Laid Waste to Our Land" – 2:33 Performed by Caleb, Matthew and The Drifter
  12. "Praise the Lord" – 1:09 Performed by the Slaves
  13. "The King Has Called Me Home" – 3:13 Performed by Caleb
  14. "Bad Man" – 3:04 Performed by Matthew
  15. "Dixie, Now You're Done" – 3:13 Performed by The Drifter

(For details of the characters singing each song, see the Wikipedia article on the album.)

What do you think? I'd certainly call it an interesting exercise in music and history.



aikorob said...

I remember this............I had his other concept album also, "Jesse James".
I think there was a TV movie several years later that "loosely" followed the album.

Steve said...

I'm an upper-midwestern fella. Been down here in Texas for 10 years. Central Texas near the "Good Place".
I have noticed a complete difference of the people I grew up with and the ones I'm living near right now.
The southern man is a very tough individual. I don't know if that is brought about by the horrible land/soil or genetics. But in all honesty; the southern man is an idiot.
An idiot in the sense that once they make up their mind; you CAN'T change it. AND if you present evidence to show how dumb their life decisions are; they won't change.
They will always bring up, "well if it was good enough for papa or mama or some previous generation" then the question is settled. Even though they will be living in poverty; they will not alter their opinions.
The folks that I grew up with, would send their children to schools/universities with the advice to "go out into the world and improve your lot in life".
Southern folks seem to inculcate their children with, "don't get a big head; stay in the morass that is the south".
Sigh. I wonder if genetics plays a role. Down here, the citizens seem to be prominently Scott, Irish, Wales. In my estimation that cohort always seems immune to change.
Oh and that myth that "The South Will Rise Again!" Heh, they never say "which" south will rise. Ain't gonna happen if the resident southern man is in charge. Not with the crappy attitude that they have. And that's why you see the massive influx of "out of staters" moving into Texas.
The people moving into Texas are changing the situation by building and improving and adding money to the gestalt. And the Southern man once again finds himself working for those folks.

Jonathan H said...

There is a substantial genre of Southern Nostalgia, for lack of a better term.
Sometimes Southern Nostalgia laments losses in the Civil War, more often it celebrates mostly gone culture, sometimes it is simply performing songs of the Civil War ere (I'm sure there are variants I'm not familiar with; what I know I've heard second hand from extended family in Texas).
There are haunting pieces, there are joyful toe tapping pieces, and a whole range of styles, some of which are quite entrancing.

I've heard a number of pieces which are MUCH better than this album, which I would categorize as more white trash/ redneck (in the bad sense) than actual Southern Nostalgia. In my opinion, this is poorly done and screechy.

Wolff said...

I too am a student of history, the Civil War in particular. The "flower" of the South was destroyed in the war and it has never recovered. By that I mean the leaders of antebellum society became the officers in the Confederate Army. At that time officers led from the front. They were slaughtered by the tens of thousands; the thinkers, entrepreneurs, and leaders of commerce. Add to that the fact that most of the battles were fought on Southern soil with the accompanying destruction of infrastructure, and you have a recipe for disaster from which the South is still recovering.

John T. Block said...

Why, Steve, how superior of you. It was those same Scots/Irish who put "paid" to the unbending British at Kings Mountain, and allowed this Nation to be born. Have also fueled our military with some of the best fighting men the world has ever seen....

James said...

While half of my ancestry is Southern, I stay away from this kind of nostalgia as I feel that the Civil War was necessary to end the curse of slavery in this country. Thus it is hard to feel sympathy for those who romanticize the antebellum South.

Bob said...

Nothing like stirring the pot if it's a slow newsday.

Steve said...

John T. Block said...
Why, Steve, how superior of you.
No, just making an astute, insightful declaration. No need to get all uppity and "woke" in your estimation of me. Just goes to show that society can't take or hear a different perception without melting.

JaimeInTexas said...


And, yet, here you are. How kind of you to come and be a missionary to reconstruct us.

Don't let the door hit ya behind. Go back North or California or wherever.

clark myers said...

Given the temper of the current times you might consider Firestorm by
Leslie Fish doing songs of WW III and such as Black Powder and Alcohol as of interest to your readers. Comments on such as on the rule of law and other things may hit home.

Jim k. said...

As someone who made the opposite move, south to north you are incorrect in most of your assumptions. Lazy idiots are everywhere in that respect it doesn't matter if your people fought on the right side of the war of northern aggression or not. For every individual you meat with an IQ over 100 there is someone below 100 that is just how it works.