The acclaimed Ennis singer Maura O’Connell has been selected to sing the opening track on The 1861 Project – Volume 2: From The Famine To The Front, a new Nashville-produced CD to honour the significant contribution made by Irish combatants on both sides of the American Civil War.
The CD features both Irish and American artists, and O’Connell’s track, The American Wake, was, appropriately, co-written by the Nashville-based Thomm Jutz and Waterford singer-songwriter Liam Merriman.
In the wake of the potato famine in the late 1840s, Ireland’s young population left for America in droves. The American Wake, performed by O’Connell with dobro legend Jerry Douglas, captures the heartbreak of departure and the stark realisation that those who left would likely never return home.
O’Connell has scored several hit singles under her own name as well as with De Danann.
The 1861 Project – Volume 2: From The Famine To The Front, also includes tracks by, Liam Merriman, David Olney, Ben Sands, Sierra Hull, Carl Jackson and others performing songs specially composed for the project. It’s the second instalment of The 1861 Project, an ongoing series of ground-breaking releases from Nashville’s creative artists’ collective Cohesion Arts.
The new CD depicts the deeply moving stories of Irish immigrants during the American Civil War, through a collection of songs that draw on time-honoured Irish and American traditions to touch hearts on both sides of the Atlantic.
The veteran musicians Jutz gathered around him to record Volume 2 inject Nashville heart and soul into this remarkable collection of Celtic-inspired songs and bring real-life heroes from the past vividly into the present.
“The Irish tradition is woven tightly into so much great American culture and music,” Jutz says.
“It continues to be a huge influence on me. Irish immigrants played such an integral role in the US Civil War. Some fought for the North, some fought for the South; the American conflict of brother against brother was also Irish against Irish.”
Jutz and his Irish and American co-writers unearthed a fascinating cast of characters and stories all but lost in the sweep of history. From folk icon Jim Rooney’s reflective, half-spoken tribute to Confederate General Patrick Cleburne, Stonewall Of The West, to Sierra Hull’s haunting Song Of The Mystic and Liam Merriman’s rollicking take on Irish Whiskey these songs are populated by historically important figures such as the Union General Thomas Francis Meagher, who also played a major role in establishing the tricolour as Ireland’s national flag, Confederate General Patrick Cleburne from County Cork, Chaplain William Corby and Father Abram J Ryan.