"One of the more pleasant aspects of the 19th-century western experience was music. Countless emigrants, merchants, soldiers, gold seekers, and others that ventured across the plains and mountains brought their music with them, from the latest hits of the minstrel stage to beloved old airs and hymns. Various musical instruments - the fiddle was a favorite - were carried along on even the most arduous journeys. Fortunately, many diaries and journals mention the songs and tunes played in the American West as well as the instruments that were a welcome source of entertainment. The western experience itself was the inspiration for many ditties, often written to popular tunes of the day, and these are found in contemporary pocket songsters. Additionally, a rich musical heritage was already firmly in place among American Indians and Hispanic settlers long before the first representatives of a young United States arrived on the scene. The Far West was indeed an amazing mixture of musical styles and traditions.
While the focus of this sampling is music of the Santa Fe Trail (1821-1880), a few of the pieces included here were also popular in other parts of the West. Some of the songs touch on events or subjects connected with the Trail's history, such as the Mexican War (1846-1848). A concerted effort has been made to perform these pieces as they would have been performed historically, with a special emphasis on presenting an authentic sound. The fiddle heard here dates to 1844. Only fretless banjos were used on the recordings, and most of the pieces feature reproductions of early tack-head, or minstrel banjos. All the instruments on this recording are known to have been used in the 19th-century West."
Mark was ably assisted on this recording by the renowned banjoist Clarke Buehling and his famed Arkansas stringband, The Skirtlifters. They appear as "The Muleskinners" on this project. Portions of this CD have been used in several television documentaries, most notably "The U.S.-Mexican War, 1846-1848," which aired nationally on PBS.
PRAISE FOR SONGS OF THE SANTA FE TRAIL...
MARC SIMMONS, SANTA FE REPORTER: "Extraordinary music....Several of the songs can be heard nowhere else, never before having been recorded.
OLD WEST JOURNAL: A "groundbreaking recording of important historical music."
COWBOYS & INDIANS MAGAZINE: "Historian Mark Gardner and a veteran stringband from Arkansas perform songs and instrumentals of 19th-century American trails west using period instruments....The politics and sentiments are period pieces as well, but songs like the poignant Joe Bowers are timeless. A trip to the frontier past."
WESTERN MUSIC ADVOCATE: "This is as close as you'll get to hearing what music sounded like on the range 150 years ago."
SMOKE & FIRE NEWS : "Probably the best available source out presently on the period music performed in the most authentic manner."
SONGS OF THE SANTA FE TRAIL AND THE FAR WEST is one of many fine CDs of historic American music on the Native Ground label (www.NATIVEGROUND.com).
Check out the artist's website:
1. Uncle Sam and Mexico
2. Uncle Sam's Song to Miss Texas
3. California Bloomer
4. Joe Bowers
5. Calabra (Culebra) Waltz
6. The Battle Call
7. Fort Dodge
9. Home! Sweet Home!
10. Jim Along Josie
11. Marcha de los Novios
12. Doniphan's Expedition