American Anthem is a collection of fifteen original story-songs celebrating the American experience. The songs reflect both personal experience and my passion for American history, featuring road songs and cowboy ballads, ranging from a tribute to Amelia Earhart to a Civil War elegy to a valentine to an old hobo I once met.
Sample some tracks below.
The voice in the verses is that of someone who can’t stand living anywhere because he can’t get away from himself—as the refrain makes clear, with Dargan Frierson’s lively tenor harmony. The pedal steel break is meant to be playful and about as subtle as a big rig barreling down the highway. Philip Gerard: Taylor 12-string, Sho-Bud II pedal steel, lead vocals; Jim Ellis: piano; Dargan Frierson: Upright bass and harmony; Catesby Jones: drums; Deb Ross: fiddle.
The title—and refrain—come from the last words of Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson after he was mortally wounded by his own troops at the Battle of Chancellorsville: “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” It’s a gentle exit line for such a bloodthirsty warrior, with just one word changed here to fit the melody. In 1865, when tortured, starving, and deathly ill hordes of Union soldiers liberated from the hellish prison camp at Salisbury, North. Carolina, crossed the Northeast Cape Fear River into Wilmington, shoeless and nearly naked, they were met by comrades of the USCT—the United States Colored Troops—who literally gave them the clothes off their backs, along with food and water. The USCT had erected a banner over the road proclaiming “We Welcome You Our Brothers.” There was much unashamed weeping—a fitting way to end such a terrible fratricidal war.
Philip Gerard: Martin D-45S, lead vocals; Dargan Frierson: upright bass, harmony; Catesby Jones: drums; Deb Ross: fiddle.
For slightly more than half a dollar, you can send a confidential hard-copy communication, guaranteed by the full might of the federal government, thousands of miles in just a couple of days, to any one of 319 million Americans located in any city, town, or rural zone. This astonishing everyday feat of the U.S. Postal Service inspired the metaphor “delivering the mail”—as applied to anyone who comes through day after day, no excuses. It was the perfect chance for an exuberant instrumental celebration on dueling tracks of a 12-string Leo Kottke model Taylor guitar, one played with a brass slide hand-made from an old church bell. The Taylor always delivers the mail.
Philip Gerard: Taylor 12-string.