Hues of Blues & Greys, After Class, 3655 Dunbarton Drive, Birmingham, AL 35223, $15.00 for CD, $10.00 for cassette.
“We sort of have our own style,” says Brant Beene of After Class. He is trying to explain what his group was trying to accomplish on its latest recording, Hues of Blues & Greys. The album is a collection of instrumental interpretations of Civil War songs, performed on hammered dulcimer, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and cello.
Beene says the band recorded this selection of Civil War songs as instrumentals for two reasons. First, because that was After Class’s style; and second, because “we wanted the emotion of those tunes to shine through,” and an instrumental setting helped that happen. “So many of those tunes were used by both sides,” Beene observes, though lyrics differed across battle lines. Instrumental performance emphasizes the music the soldiers of North and South shared.
After Class’s renditions incorporate elements of Scots-Irish music, bluegrass, swing, rock, jazz, even classical music, as on “The Battle of Shiloh Hill.” The effect is powerful. Civil War standards reemerge as haunting melodies that transcend changing musical tastes.
I recommend Hues of Blues & Greys, in part because it shows Civil War music still has worth, but mostly because it is an enjoyable album.