Exploring the connections between early music and what we know as folksong, Joel Cohen and his very adventurous and competent band of musicians not only show us where many familiar tunes come from, they also give us fresh and illuminating renditions of songs from the 10th century to the middle of the 20th century. Besides the recording’s obvious educational value, its primary purpose, according to Cohen, is “to give pleasure.” That it does, often in amusing ways, as when a song with religious origins is transformed into a ribald descendant. It’s also fun to see how widespread some songs are, with different versions common to many countries. Cohen demonstrates how songs that came from Renaissance forms were preserved by common folk long after the “elite” classes abandoned them. The songs are enhanced by excellent instrumental playing and well-conceived arrangements. –David Vernier
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The Great War between the Northern and Southern States of America possesses a peculiar interest for us, not only because it was a struggle between two sections of a people akin to us in race and language, but because of the heroic courage with which the weaker party, with ill-fed, ill-clad, ill-equipped regiments, for four years sustained the contest with an adversary not only possessed of immense numerical superiority, but having the command of the sea, and being able to draw its arms and munitions of war from all the manufactories of Europe. Authorities still differ as to the rights of the case. The Confederates firmly believed that the States having voluntarily united, retained the right of withdrawing from the Union when they considered it for their advantage to do so. The Northerners took the opposite point of view, and an appeal to arms became inevitable. During the first two years of the war the struggle was conducted without inflicting unnecessary hardship upon the general population. But later on the character of the war changed, and the Federal armies carried wide-spread destruction wherever they marched. Upon the other hand, the moment the struggle was over the conduct of the conquerors was marked by a clemency and generosity altogether unexampled in history, a complete amnesty being granted, and none, whether soldiers or civilians, being made to suffer for their share in the rebellion. The credit of this magnanimous conduct was to a great extent due to Generals Grant and Sherman, the former of whom took upon himself the responsibility of granting terms which, although they were finally ratified by his government, were at the time received with anger and indignation in the North. It was impossible, in the course of a single volume, to give even a sketch of the numerous and complicated operations of the war, and I have therefore confined myself to the central point of the great struggle–the attempts of the Northern armies to force their way to Richmond, the capital of Virginia and the heart of the Confederacy. Even in recounting the leading events in these campaigns, I have burdened my story with as few details as possible, it being my object now, as always, to amuse as well as to give instruction in the facts of history.
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