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Various Artists - Divided and United: The Songs of the Civil War (Ato Records)

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Just as the Coen brothers return to the mainstream a palpable interest in American folk music with the arrival of their film Inside Llewyn Davis, along comes a thirty-two track double-disc collection of songs from the country's Civil War. And what a treat it is, especially when you consider the quality of the voices and fingers that deliver these antique songs of war's trials and tribulations to young and old ears alike.

Bluegrass stalwarts Del McCoury, Ricky Skaggs and Ralph Stanley are in attendance along with big country names such as Vince Gill, Steve Earle and Dolly Parton, each with their own heartfelt versions of Dear Old Flag, Just Before The Battle, Mother and Listen to the Mockingbird. Mandolin master Chris Thile donates his take on the Federal song Richmond is a Hard Road to Travel, featuring a slick guitar and vocal from Michael Daves. There are also arresting contributions from Carolina Chocolate Drops, Pokey LaFarge and blues legend Taj Mahal, all helping to make this collection the epic that, given the subject matter, it ought to be.
Marking 150 years since the end of the American Civil War, DIVIDED AND UNITED: THE SONGS OF THE CIVIL WAR is the brainchild of Randall Poster, musical supervisor on such productions as Boardwalk Empire and Skyfall, and presents one of the finest anthologies of American folk and country you're ever likely to hear.

Liam Wilkinson
Northern Sky