New Civil War music CD from The Would Man
Allan James Grund is a Michigan-based poet, song writer, composer, and entertainer whose engaging and evocative Civil War compositions reflect the emotions of the lowly common soldier as he reflects upon the Civil War. His first work, The Would Man, from 2006 is still available on CDbaby.
Some time ago I reviewed his fine CD, Two Soldiers: Reflections on the War Between the States. A masterful effort that provides some insightful commentary on America’s most tumultuous period, Two Soldiers has become a popular addition to the library of contemporary Civil War music.
There’s an old adage in Hollywood that sequels are often artistically not as good as the original, although they may make more money from a commercial perspective. Here’s hoping that Allan’s sequel, Two Soldiers: Reflections on the War Between the States, Part II, will prove the financial aspect and disprove the artistic maxim.
For, quite simply, this new album is his finest work to date.
There are eight songs on the new Two Soldiers: Reflections on the War Between the States, Part II CD. All are interesting and well composed, with a diversity of topics and musical styles.
The individual song titles are:
* “Comin’ Down Kennesaw” – a soldier reflects on the meaning of war, a topic that can easily be transported to any period of history. Allan’s rich arrangement and strong vocals give passion and feeling to the piece. “If I get out of this thing alive, I ain’t goin’ to do any fightin’ any more,” he sings. Strong harmonica music adds depth to this piece.
* “Black River” – another reflective piece in which the singer questions where he will find shelter for the cold and rainy night, and then with some melancholy wonders if anyone would remember him if he fell victim to the war. Again, transfer the setting from Mississippi to World War II, Vietnam, Waterloo, or any other place, and the feelings and emotions still ring true. “I’m wondering where I will be tomorrow. I’m wondering where I’ll be sleeping tonight,” the Rebel soldier speculates. “I’m wondering about all the things that have happened…” “Have the generals just gone mad?”, he asks. Will everything be OK? It’s a question I am sure millions of soldiers have had to face. Grund writes, “Every man’s got a different road to ride.” How very true for all of us.
* “Antietam” – this interesting song reflects upon the fury of combat as the soldier tries to keep composed in the midst of a tempest around him. Like so many other soldiers throughout history, he leans inward to find peace with his God and raises prayers for safety and strength. The Would Man here again shows his strong grasp of the common soldier, as well as the battle of Antietam — America’s Bloodiest Day.
* “Alger, Lovells, McKinstry, & Huff” – One of my favorites on the CD! I grew up in southeastern Ohio not far from the birthplace of George Armstrong Custer, and as I write this review, I am in my office about 10 miles from where Custer first led the Michigan Cavalry Brigade in combat at the Battle of Hanover here in southern York County, Pa. Custer and his Wolverines remain a favorite topic of mine. In this song, Grund captures the spirit of the Michigan boys through a focus on four individuals, Alger, Lovells, McKinstry, and Huff. Strongly written and beautifully performed, this will surely rank among Allan’s finest works. Written from a Confederate perspective, this is a reflection from one of J.E.B. Stuart’s cavaliers on how the tide of the war has shifted with the dramatic improvement of the Union horsemen, Alger, Lovells, McKinstry, & Huff, being symbolic of not only the Michigan troopers, but the growing power of the Union war machine. “I remember it all so well…” sings Grund, as the soldier reflects post-war.
* “Grierson’s Raid” – The song begins with the old familiar lyrics, “I wish I were in the land of cotton; old times there are not forgotten…” I have recently been reading a lot about Grierson’s visit to Dixie and have reviewed two books on the topic. Allan Grund’s song artistically portrays this important, but often overlooked Civil War event. Benjamin Grierson, an officer ironically afraid of horses, led a daring dash from Tennessee through enemy territory down to Louisiana, where he unexpectedly appeared at a Union camp where the officers had no clue he was coming. His daring raid drew considerable press coverage at the time. Grund’s song reflects the excitement of the bold dash through the heart of the Confederacy. Again, Allan’s harmonica music helps set the mood of the period.
* “The Wilderness ’64” – another very emotional song in which a soldier endures the fury of one of the fiercest and most tragic battles of the entire war. Hampered by poor visibility and limited movement in the tangled wilderness, men fought at close range for hours and many wounded soldiers died when the dense underbrush caught fire. The soldier in Grund’s song loses his brother Billy to an enemy bullet; the wounded Billy pleads that he does not want to die; and the soldier later has traumatic nightmares over the horrific battle. This is one of Grund’s best efforts.
* “Henry McKinstry” – A soldier in Custer’s 5th Michigan, young Henry McKinstry fights throughout Virginia until being wounded at Cold Harbor and taken to Washington, D.C. to a hospital. He survived the Civil War and returned home to the Wolverine State. Grund’s song accurately captures the emotions of the common soldier as he faces battle, lonely hours, and the grind of the campaign trail. He reflects upon the death of an enemy – J.E.B. Stuart, who died at Yellow Tavern and speculates what his Southern counterparts must have thought of the loss of their charismatic leader.
* “Appomattox” – Written from the perspective of a common soldier in Lee’s army as he contemplates the end of the war, and the end of his country. No food, no ammunition, no hope other than the prayer that Robert E. Lee had another miracle in his pocket — this was the plight of his men. The soldier laments, “Tell me what we’ve been fightin’ for?”
Allan Grund’s compositions are excellent, and his strong vocals and use of pitch and tone transport the listener back to the early 1860s when Americans fought fellow Americans over such issues as states rights, slavery, and philosophy. Although a Northerner by birth, Grund presents the reflections of both Union and Confederate soldiers, and this CD is sure to be popular on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.
My own great-great-grandfather marched with Sherman in the 51st Ohio Infantry, and my three great-great-uncles were at Antietam and Gettysburg in the 7th West Virginia Infantry. Grund’s music takes me back to their day and gives me pause to reflect on what they must have endured. “I don’t want to die… not here today, not this way,” he sings.
Perhaps my own ancestors faced the very same emotions that Allan Grund so wonderfully sings about?
Allan writes, “In addition to this new cd, I have also written a book which we plan to turn into an Audio Book involving all sixteen songs (Part I and Part II). In this CD the songs are ‘loosely arranged’ in chronological order. I have a narrator who will introduce the historical background of each song…then you will hear the song…and then I give my notes on what interested me about each particular song.
I’m also working on an Audio/Visual book using all sixteen songs.
Last but not least: I have developed a program of dialogue, lecture and music which I perform ‘live’ in schools, museums, libraries, re-enactments, etc. This program is the most important part of it all. My goal is to get this program out there into more and more states.”
Visit The Would Man’s extensive website for ordering information for his CDs as well as to view his calendar of personal appearances.