Thursday, December 11, 2014

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A Confederate Tale

Frankie McKillen with a piece on Jesse James and music.

White Mansions like it's sister album The Legend of Jesse James are strange quirks in music, in that they weren't commercially successful despite having stars such as Johnny Cash, Levon Helm, Charlie Daniels, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Jessie Coulter and guitar heroes like Eric Clapton and Albert Lee doing what they do better than most.

Both albums were penned by a former British advertising executive with a pechant for American history called Paul Kennerly. The story goes in 1976 Kennerly first heard Waylon Jennings on the radio singing Let's All Help the Cowboys (Sing the Blues) and got hooked on country, packed his bags and went to Nashville where he started to write songs and researched the American Civil War and it's aftermath. Both albums play like a book in that every song is a chapter and every verse a new page. While White Manisions (full album) is arguably a better album for country music purists because of it's rawness. The Legend of the Jesse James is definitely the more polished of the two.

For an insight into White Mansions there is no better place to look than Steve Hull's web site.

The Legend of Jesse James (full album)

Ride of the Redlegs

(Levon Helm as Jesse James, Jody Payne as Doc Samuel, Rodney Crowell as The Officer, Rosanne Cash as Ma Samuel)

The story begins with war raging all around and a young Jesse living on a farm with his stepfather, mother and sister when the Redlegs come calling looking for Jesse's older brother Frank. When they didn't find Frank the Redlegs decided to hang Doc Samuel from a barn, and they left a young Jesses James black and blue from a beating.

Quantrill's Guerillas
(Levon Helm as Jesse James)

Jesse, full of hate and anger for what the Redlegs had done to his family, (killing his step father and imprisoning his mother and sister) decided to join up and fight along side Quantrill.

Six Gun Shooting
(Johnny Cash as Frank James)

Frank starts to notice how fearless his younger brother is and how good he is with his six gun. And Frank stands back and watches his younger brother grow into a man.

"Have You Heard the News?"
(Albert Lee as Jim Younger)

Jim Younger recieves news that the war is over and the North offered an anmnesty. Jesse goes into town and surrenders his arms but on his way home he is set upon by several Yankees who again beat him in to an inch of his life.

Heaven Ain't Ready for You Yet
(Emmylou Harris as Zerelda James)

After making his way back to his families homestead, battered, bloodied and bruised he is moved to Kansas where he is nursed back to health by his cousin Zerelda, later to be his wife.

Help Him, Jesus
(Johnny Cash as Frank James)

With Jesses back in full health and back home on the farm Frank see's something in his younger brother's eyes. Frank James starts to notice a change in Jesse and fears for him. Although Jesse still hasn't shown his hand, Frank pleads and hopes his younger brother doesn't go down the same road but deep down Frank knows Jesse is a walking time bomb.

The Old Clay County
(Charlie Daniels as Cole Younger, Levon Helm as Jesse James)

Tells how the James-Younger gang got started. Jesse talking to his friend Cole Younger decided to hit back at the North for taking away their livelihoods and the beatings Jesse received. They decided to rob a bank in a town called Liberty in Clay County. They walked away with 75,000 green backs.

Riding with Jesse James
(Charlie Daniels as Cole Younger)

Cole continues to tell what life was like robbing banks and getting revenge. They knew they had alibis. At the start they didn't plan on killing anyone as they waged their own war but the death toll started to mount.

Hunt Them Down
(Albert Lee as Jim Younger)

With news spreading across the country the press where full of pages about the exploits of the James-Younger gang and how they seemed to be able to rob banks and rail roads with ease. But the James-Younger gang seemed to be two steps ahead all the time.

Wish We Were back in Missouri
(Emmylou Harris as Zerelda James)

Zerelda tired of living on the road, going to Broadway shows knowing that the life she now lives is born from the barrel of a gun and and death, pleads with Jesse to go back home to Missouri and start all over again as they had planned when they were childhood sweethearts.

Northfield The Plan
(Levon Helm as Jesse James)

With the proceeds of robbing banks and trains becoming harder on every job, Bill Miller tells Jesse about a bank in Northfield Minnesota. Jesses tells Jim Younger to get in touch with his brother Cole who is in California and the James-Youner gang reunited for what was to be their big pay day so they wouldn't have to rob to make a living.

Northfield: The Disaster
(Charlie Daniels as Cole Younger)

Ridng into Northfield the gang put there plan into action only to be out witted by the local towns people. With the gang badly shot up and several of them dead they decided to get out only to be hampered by one of the worst storms in living memory. With Pinkerton agents hot on their trail Jesse and Frank decided to make a run for it and escape while the Younger Brothers got caught.

High Walls
(Levon Helm as Jesse James)

Jesse starts to look back on his ife and the carnage he's left behind, makes a promise to himself that he will never spend one day in prison. He knows they wont let him tell his story and why he did what he did ... he accepts the life he leads.

The Death of Me
(Johnny Cash as Frank James, Levon Helm as Jesse James)

After the dust settled on the Northfiled disaster Frank starts to question the life they are both living and after several arguments both Frank and Jesse both go their separate ways.

The Plot
(Paul Kennerley as James Timberlake)

Sheriff James Timberlake and Marshal Henry H. Craig who had the purse strings to a bounty leading to the arrest and or death of Jesse and Frank offered Bob and Charley Ford the chance of a reward if the kill Jesse.. They recieved a small portion of the reward and set upon a plan to lure Jesse to his death.

One more shot
(Levon Helm as Jesse James, Donivan Cowart as Robert Ford, Martin Cowart as Charley Ford, Emmylou Harris as Zerelda James, Johnny Cash as Frank James

After lying low and staying out of trouble the Ford brothers call on Jesse and talk him into having one more robbery just for 'old time sake'. Jesse thinks it over and already having robbed banks with Charlie (the elder of the Fords) starts to feel at ease to the point he doesn't feel the need to wear a gun around them. While his back was turned and filled with greed Bob Ford shot Jesse James in the back.


marty said...

Talking about gangsters and not just those bastards who infest Stormont a cara but closer to home.Someone has stolen an E from the Pensive Quill banner above censor offender ...mmm

larry hughes said...

Interesting all of that. Perhaps what Clint Eastwood was thinking about when he did Outlaw Jose Wells.

Wolfsbane said...

Thanks for the heads-up! I'm a fan of Civil War music.

I can recommend this:

There are many points of identification between the terrorist campaigns (before, during and after the Civil War) and our own Troubles. Good men fighting for ultimately bad causes because they focussed on lesser wrongs happening to their folk. Bad men on both sides enjoying to opportunities for blood-lust and pillage. Politicians coming out of the pile to the good life.

Wolfsbane said...

Some of the lyrics:

I dedicate this to our dissident friends, ;)

Ry Cooder – I'm A Good Old Rebel Lyrics
(Traditional, arranged by Ry Cooder)
Oh, I'm a good old Rebel
Now that's just what I am
For this fair land of freedom
I do not care a damn.
I'm glad I fought against it
I only wish we'd won.
And I don't want no pardon
For anything I've done.
I hates the Yankee nation
And everything they do,
I hates the Declaration
Of Independence, too;
I hates the glorious Union-
'Tis dripping with our blood-
And I hates their striped banner,
I fought it all I could.
Three hundred thousand Yankees
Stiffen in Southern dust
We got three hundred thousand
Before they conquered us
They died of Southern fever
And Southern steel and shot
And I wish it was three million
Instead of what we got.
I won't be reconstructed
I'm better now than then
And for that carpetbagger
I do not give a damn
So I'm off for the frontier
Soon as I can go
I'll prepare a weapon
And start for Mexico

Wolfsbane said...

My favourite:

Jim Keach - Wildwood Boys from 'The Long Riders' Soundtrack

Wildwood Boys

This here was our situation
We was just young wildwood boys
New as the birth of the nation
The kind that the Army employs
High riding Rebs from Missouri
Fought for the grey and Quantrill
Caught up by the battle and the fury
Back when just living was hell
After the battle was over
And after the Union had won
It was quitting that made us the loser
So we kept doing just what we'd done
Riding as comrads together
We looted the trains and the banks
Removing that carpetbag money
And sticking it hard to the Yanks
Death always follows behind you
When you ride down that old outlaw trail
Someday a bullet will find you
Or you'll rot like a corpse in some jail
Turning your back to the danger
Is a wager no man can afford
'Cause gold turns a friend to a stranger
Like old Judas turned on our Lord
Men are revered and remembered
While they lay in that coffin and rot
Some live in the legends of history
Most are forever forgot
The victory it goes to the strongest
And only the strong will survive
Survival is living the longest
But nobody gets out alive
The questions don't never get answered
And the rights, they're remembered all wrong
The facts, they can get plenty confusing
So someday if you happen to be singing this song
Remember it's just for the record
You can't change the handwork of fate
And tell 'em I lived for the moment
And I died when I tried to go straight

pat murphy said...

Two songs that would be quite appropriate at a good old fleg protest,,,,,,,,yeoooooooooooooo.

Wolfsbane said...

larry, I think The Outlaw Josey Wales is a great movie for introducing folk to the complexities of civil warfare.

Tain Bo said...


do you think they didn’t do so well because that rift between Yankee and Rebel is still going on?

frankie said...


Good Q... Why isn't Billy Fury's 1st album up there with the best of Sun, Stax, King, Atlantic..... I've a long answer.. (very long)...

My Q tonight is "Why did you join up?'

I was born in 1968 and left Belfast just before my 21st Birthday ( do the maths yourself)... But to me even during the conflict or whatever it was..... Guitars always (to me) made a better sound than AK47' or M16's...