The Irish Volunteer: Songs of the Irish Union Soldier, 1861-1865 performed by David Kincaid, Rykodisc, Salem, Massachusetts, (888) 232-7385, compact disc, $15.98.
More than 160,000 Irish-born men fought for the Union during the Civil War. Most of them served in all-Irish units, none of which was more famous than Brigadier General Thomas Meagher’s “Irish Brigade.” The gallant fighting of Meagher’s men–most notably at the “Bloody Lane” at Antietam, Maryland, and at Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg, Virginia–is the stuff of legend. Less well-known, however, is the music that spurred the Irish Brigade troops, and the Union’s other fighting Irishmen, on to battle.
On the new recording The Irish Volunteer, musician and reenactor David Kincaid aims to change that. According to the notes that accompany his recording, Kincaid searched through libraries and museums to uncover these 12 songs. Although a few of them have been recorded before, some have not been heard for more than a century. In any event Kincaid’s album, available only on compact disc, is the first dedicated entirely to Irish Yankees.
Kincaid’s title track blends the melody of “The Bonnie Blue Flag” with the urgent message of a recruiter: “Fill the ranks and march away!–no traitors do we fear; We’ll drive them all to blazes, says the Irish volunteer.” Other songs, such as “Boys That Wore the Green” and “Free and Green,” lament the loss of Irish soldiers. The traditional strains of the Irish fiddle, uilleann pipes, celtic harp, and accordion combine with tight harmonies to create 50 minutes of music you won’t soon forget.
Included with the disc are complete lyrics and a meticulous explanation of each song’s significance. Listeners who knew little about the Irish in the Civil War will come away not only entertained, but also educated. Listening to Kincaid’s music, you can easily understand why so many Irishmen fought so hard; sing-along tunes like these just might get your blood boiling.