Southern Soldier: Favorite Camp Songs of the Civil War, by the 2nd South Carolina String Band, 1820 Old Harrisburg Road, Gettysburg, PA 17325, compact disc $16.95, cassette $11.95.
Pull up a cracker box and grab your spoons! You’ve got an invitation to step through the fog of time and unwind around the campfire with the common soldiers of the Confederacy. The invitation comes from the 2nd South Carolina String Band, six fellows as much in tune with the South’s Civil War soldiers as with the music those soldiers made in camp.
On their third and newest album, Southern Soldier: Favorite Camp Songs of the Civil War, the boys of the 2nd South Carolina set to plucking, strumming, fiddling, piping, drumming, and singing with a good-natured liveliness that sheds a bit of light on the human side of the Civil War’s soldiers.
Much like hearing Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti performed on period instruments according to a Baroque aesthetic, listening to Civil War songs played on genuine instruments of the period as they would have been in the 1860s lets you hear the real sound of a time and place. Still, the real essence of a piece of music is not found in the make of the instruments, but in artful performance done with understanding.
The players of the 2nd South Carolina String Band are clearly “musical reenactors,” striving to re-create the real sound of Confederate soldier-musicians. Fortunately, they also understand the soul of the music they play, and they know how to convey it.