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Various Artists – Bloody War: Songs 1924–1939

Tompkins Square

Bloody War - Songs 1924–1939The ordinary soldier’s tale is a lamentable one full of dark humour born of hardship and kinship in barracks and battle. Here are 15 such laments ranging from the period 1924–1939 from the USA; in Europe a sometimes overlooked participant in the First World War, with its own continental conflicts and a civil war to draw subject matter from.

A CD of songs taken from private collections of out of copyright 78s, starting with Zeke Morris‘ “Just As the Sun Went Down” and featuring the amazingly named Red Patterson’s Piedmont Log Rollers telling of “The Battleship Of Maine,” an event of sabotage or subterfuge controversially precipitating the Spanish-American War; its inclusion tempting comparisons with politics behind the Gulf War. Scanning past the flags and eagles on the artwork and showing the record company’s sympathy with the plight of today’s returning GIs, we are told that “a portion of the proceeds from this album will benefit Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America.”

Entertaining and historically interesting songs, fans of roots and field recordings; you know what to expect: crackly testimonies, gritty folk and popular ballads rub shoulders from a time when it’s difficult to conceive how people knocked out a tune in five minutes in a tin-pan alley studio with spirit and passion (and sometimes a keen ear on what would sell and to which way the wind was blowing patriotically), presented in a period-inspired gatefold pack with grainy photos and notes about each song. Concurring with the accompanying booklet, stand out tracks include fiddle extravaganza “Dixie Division” by Fiddlin’ John Carson & His Virginia Reelers, Wade Mainer & Sons of The Mountaineers’ “Not a Word Of That Be Said” and Tom Darby & Jimmie Tarlton‘s “The Rainbow Division.”

-Peter Bennett-

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