An Army Without Music: Civil War Project Blog

  • Louisiana video - "Rose of Sharon"

    Video number four is now live!

    This is "Rose of Sharon", recorded in Mansfield, Red River Parish, Louisiana. It features a special guest appearance by Charles Whitstine of the Grammy-nominated bluegrass duo the Whitstein Brothers on mandolin. His grandsons, Charles Wesley and Jesse, appear as soldiers.

    A rose of Sharon, also known as a Confederate rose, was often etched on jewelry given by soldiers to their sweethearts before they went away to war. This story was inspired by a friend's great-great-great grandfather, who left home to fight in the Red River Valley campaign. He was last seen sitting under an old oak tree, and was never heard from again. The Battle of Mansfield was the largest battle within that campaign. Today, the land is scarred by lignite mining operations.

    A special thank you to Richard Holloway of the Civil War Roundtable of Central Louisiana, and to the Whitstine family.

    We have three more recording sites left: Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. These recordings will be a part of our next album, "An Army Without Music." We're making a double disc - one side, live recordings - the other side, studio versions of the same songs produced by Gary Maurer (of the band Hem) in Brooklyn.

  • Charleston Post and Courier

    Thanks to the Charleston Post and Courier for running a story about the video side of the "An Army Without Music" project in Sunday's Arts & Travel section.

  • Alabama video - "Grancer Harrison"

    Video number three is now live!

    This is "Grancer Harrison", recorded at the Harrison Cemetery in Coffee County, Alabama.

    Grancer had a large farm near Kinston, Alabama before and during the Civil War. In the years leading up to the war, he would throw large parties every Saturday night. A Scot-Irish immigrant, he would play old fiddle tunes and dance the night away in his clogging shoes. The war hit his family hard - he reportedly lost four, or five, sons and one grandson in 1864. When he died, he asked to be buried with his fiddle, in his dancing shoes, and in his feather bed. His wishes were carried out, and his large bed-shaped tomb remains today. It has unfortunately been blown up numerous times over the past 100 years as people search for the gold reportedly buried with him. Grancer is known to haunt the gravesite, and has thus become one of the famous "13 Ghosts of Alabama."

    A special thank you to Mark and Paige Schnell, Andy and Ann Sumblin, Lynn NeSmith and the many numerous Harrison descendents, including Robert and Lujeaner,  for making this recording possible.

    We have three more recording sites left: Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. These recordings will be a part of our next album, "An Army Without Music." We're making a double disc - one side, live recordings - the other side, studio versions of the same songs produced by Gary Maurer (of the band Hem) in Brooklyn.

  • "Rose of Sharon" recording

    Thanks to Richard Holloway of the Civil War Roundtable of Central Louisiana, Ida and Charles Whitstine and their grandsons (Jesse and Charles Wesley), and of course our favorite videographer Abby Linne for a great shoot in the mud and rain in Alexandria and Mansfield, Louisiana. The "Rose of Sharon" video is coming soon!


    Vanessa, Charles Whitstine and his grandsons Charles and Jesse in Alexandria.


    Abby gets the shot.


    Vanessa at the battle site in Mansfield.


    Vanessa and Charles Whitstine.

  • Charles Whitstine will guest on "Rose of Sharon"

    We are honored that Charles Whitstine of the Grammy-nominated bluegrass band the Whitstein Brothers will play mandolin on our live battlefield recording of "Rose of Sharon" in Mansfield, Louisiana. Video coming soon!

  • Mansfield, Louisiana: "Rose of Sharon"

    Date: January 2014
    Location: Mansfield, Louisiana and the banks of the Red River, Alexandria, Lousiana
    Song: "Rose of Sharon"
    Threatened Battlefield: Mansfield, DeSoto Parish, Louisiana

    The Civil War Trust told us about the lignite mining operation that has destroyed much of the battle site at Mansfield. We had the town on our songwriting list, but we were not sure what the story would be. One evening, the woman who owned the house where we stayed during our songwriting residency in Seaside, Florida, told us the story of her great-great-great grandfather. He was from Red River Parish, Louisiana - and left home to fight in the Red River Valley campaign. The family legend is that he was last seen sitting under a large oak tree, then was never seen or heard from again.

    Today, much of the battlefield around Mansfield is a mudpit. The "beep beep beep" of large machinery echos across the valley from the Dolet Hills Mining Operation. The contours of the land are unrecognizable from April 8, 1864.

    A rose of Sharon, also known as a Confederate rose, was a familiar design on jewelry in the South during the war. Often given to a sweetheart before a soldier left for war, the rings or necklaces were reminder that he would be home again, and that the cause was a noble one.

    I gave my love a rose of Sharon
    a rose of Sharon of purple and gold
    to wear upon her hand and dream of
    her hand and dream of the day I come home
    say you’ll remember the day that we met
    the day that I left you alone
    while I’m heading northward my heart’s in your hands
    my love is engraved on a stone
    I gave my love a rose of Sharon
    a rose of Sharon she promised I would
    be always with her if I should perish
    if I should perish in Louisiana
    say you’ll remember the day that we met
    the day that I left you alone
    in the Red River Valley my heart’s in your hands
    my love is engraved on a stone
    say you’ll remember the day that we met
    the day that I left you alone
    under the old oak tree I’ll write you these letters
    I’ll write you these letters
    from a love now engraved on a stone

  • Recording Begins in Brooklyn

    The basic tracks for An Army Without Music are done! We had an amazing time in Brooklyn tracking at Mission Sound Recording and Saltlands Studio with producer Gary Maurer. Gary, Matt Keating, Mark Brotter and George Rush were brilliant to work with. We are so happy with the results. We mixed a little Ashes and Fire-style Ryan Adams, a little Norah Jones, a hint of Amos Lee and some good old-fashioned real country music together...

    We'll be working on overdubs and vocals in early 2014, with an anticipated release date this spring.

    Elizabeth tracking "Chantilly Grace" at Saltlands.

    Vanessa and producer Gary Maurer of Hem.

    On the way to Mission Sound Recording.

     

  • Kickstarter Sucess!

    Thanks to the contributions of friends and fans, we raised more than $6500 toward the cost of finishing the album and live video recordings for "An Army Without Music"!

    We begin recording the studio album this month at Saltlands Studio and Mission Sound Recording in Brooklyn with producer Gary Maurer. We'll be back up to NYC in January to finish the tracking, and the album tentative release date is March 2014.

    The video for "Grancer Harrison", shot in Coffee County, Alabama, will be posted shortly. We're recording "Rose of Sharon" in Mansfield, Louisiana this December, leaving just Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia ahead of us for the winter.

  • Atlanta video - "Copenhill"

    Update: Today's Washington Post has a story about this video!

    Video number two is now live!

    This is "Copenhill", recorded at Morelli's Ice Cream in the Edgewood Retail District on Moreland Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia. This giant shopping center was the center of the Battle of Atlanta on a miserably hot July day in 1864. Today, there's not even a commemorative plaque to mark the spot. Instead, shoppers hurry in and out of Target and the Kroger grocery store, casually eat food at numerous restaurants and speed up and down the heavily-trafficed avenue. We wondered if those people know what happened 149 years ago.

    Months after the battle, Union General William T. Sherman watched the city of Atlanta burn from a hill called Copenhill (now occupied by the Carter Center).

    This fall, we're working on eight more recordings at battle sites threatened or destroyed by development. These recordings will be a part of our next album, "An Army Without Music." We're making a double disc - one side, live recordings - the other side, studio versions of the same songs.