“ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT Friday May 17, 2013 Civil War battle inspires songwriter to tell stories by Monica Orosz Daily Mail staff Courtesy photo The Fields of Gettysburg" is a CD featuring narrative and original songs. In 2008, John Walsh and his family made a Father's Day weekend visit to Gettysburg, Pa., to visit the historic Civil War battlefield. The singer-songwriter, a longtime history buff, was moved by the enormity of the area and what had happened there. And he got the germ of an idea to create a musical project about the largest battle of the Civil War, and the one that claimed the most casualties. We just happened to wind down what turned out to be Cashtown Road," recalled Walsh, 50. "We stopped at a rest area and I looked across the road, where there was a statue of John Buford. So I walk over and I'm looking at the placards and the map and I realize, 'Holy cow, this is where the first shot was fired.' It was an awe-inspiring moment for me. I just realized how much humanity was barreling down there - and a lot of them didn't walk back out. There was a lot of gravity looking down that road. And I said, 'I need to write something about this.' It took five years to bring to fruition, but Walsh's timing is impeccable. His 12-track song cycle, "The Fields of Gettysburg," a CD featuring narrative and original songs about the historic battle, has been released just in time for the 150th anniversary of the battle at Gettysburg. It's also West Virginia's sesquicentennial. * * * During his nine years in the U.S. Air Force, after which he retired as a captain, Walsh became interested in military history. Before I got into the service, I didn't pay much attention to history," he said. "But I was forced into reading about it, and then I began to latch on to the stuff I was reading, and I really became interested in the Civil War Era. We had to do a research paper - this is probably 1991 or '92, and we had to pick what our instructor called a war history figure. And I picked Ulysses S. Grant and found out I had all kinds of preconceived notions that were false. I call him my gateway character. And then my interest just migrated toward the Gettysburg story. It's an epic battle. There's probably 1,000 different stories about it. In his reading, Walsh became especially interested with some of the characters both major and minor in the battle. Among them were Brigadier General John Buford, who led the Union Army to Gettysburg, settling in to await much-needed reinforcement, and Lt. General James Longstreet, a Confederate leader whom some blame for the Confederate's loss at Gettysburg. Both of them are interesting and heroic, even though they were on either side of the line," Walsh said. That Father's Day in 2008, Walsh got the idea to tell stories of his favorite key characters. I'm a songwriter, not a writer-writer, so that was my natural media to consider how to express myself," he said. "I thought about all these stories and was there some way to put them together, either in one song or to string some things together. Within that year, I started taking some notes. And I realized there might be a whole song cycle there. * * * A native of New York, Walsh grew up in Marietta, Ohio, and graduated from West Virginia's Salem College. From boyhood, he wrote songs and played guitar, emulating the great singers of the 1960s and '70s. He has performed all over the country and has released seven albums. When he returned to the area in 1996, Walsh became active in restoring the Colony Theatre and the start of Adelphia Music Hall in Marietta. He serves on the board of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. Those activities connected him to many active players in the region's music scene, something that helped immensely as his project took shape. * * * Walsh didn't have the luxury of devoting himself full time to his project. He's a husband and a father of two. He works as an executive for Alliance Industries in Marietta, 10 miles from his home in Vienna. Through 2009, Walsh pieced together the framework of his project, which would somehow cover the Battle of Gettysburg from July 1-3, 1863. He then sought characters that would help tell his story - Buford and Longstreet, certainly, and the moral dilemmas each faced. But Walsh also wanted to humanize his project even more by telling the story of young soldiers. The underlying moral of my story was that in addition to wanting to write something that honored these people, I wanted to show the truth that war deprives a nation of its youth. Indeed, estimates of casualties at Gettysburg alone are as high as 50,000. Walsh decided to include three young people, all of whom lost their lives at Gettysburg. Private Wesley Culp was a native of Gettysburg who moved to Virginia and joined the Confederates, much to the horror of his family, who virtually disowned him. He returned to Gettysburg for the battle, hopeful he would reunite with his family. Meantime, his friend, Cpl. Jack Skelly, had joined the Union Army and was being treated at a Confederate field hospital in Virginia for wounds suffered in battle. Skelly's sweetheart, Jennie Wade, was back home in Gettysburg and her name never would have made the history books except for the fact that she was the lone civilian to die during the battle. Culp died at Gettysburg and Skelly never recovered from his wounds. Walsh was fascinated by the connection. These three young people knew each other, they were friends on both sides of the conflict, and all three gave their lives," he said. "I read a pile of books on Gettysburg, and none of those characters took up more than a half of a page in a history book. * * * At that point, Walsh decided his project would include narrative and song. I decided why not try to engage the listener with fresh music with hints of period instruments in there and then help it along by tying it together with some narrative. And I really enjoyed that part," he said. Still, the project piddled along until early 2012, when Walsh realized the sesquicentennial of Gettysburg was approaching. He told himself, "It's time to get on this, boy. By last summer, he'd finished his writing and he invited musician friends Todd Burge and Bill White over to hear it. I just played it on my acoustic guitar; I wanted to get their feedback. I thought we could make a really cool acoustic record with a few guitars. They loved it. Todd starting going off about it and they were both taking notes. Right after that, he asked, 'Who are your dream players?' Next thing he knew, those dream players were signing up for the project, including Ted Harrison on bass guitar, Ammed Solomon on drums and percussion, Michael Lipton on electric guitar and omnichord, Cynthia Puls on Cello, Julie Zickefoose on penny whistle and David S. George on guitar and piano. Much to his surprise and delight, Tim O'Brien agreed to be guest fiddler. And Mountain Stage host Larry Groce stepped up as narrator. Vocalists for each part include Walsh as Longstreet, Burge as Buford, Justin Arthur as Culp, Darlene J. Phillips as Jennie Wade, Colton Pack as Skelly and Jessica Baldwin as Mary Wade, Jennie Wade's mother. The project was recorded and mixed in Marietta and Athens, Ohio, with additional tracks done in Nashville and Charleston. Walsh designed a website to promote the CD and the cover art for the CD, also building a Facebook page and large email list to promote it. The finished result is melodic, haunting and understated. Walsh hopes it captures the mood he feels at Gettysburg. I went back to Gettysburg to seal this deal two years ago and give me that last kick in the pants. I went with my best buddy from college, who lives right next door to Gettysburg. We went on a 10-hour walking jaunt through everything. And much like that day when we happened upon Buford's statue, I went to these different places in the song cycle. It's really a haunting place and the scope of it is massive," Walsh said. The CD is available as an Mp3 download on Amazon.com as well as in CD version at a variety of retailers. The Gettysburg gift shop will carry it, as will Tamarack. For more information, visitwww.thefieldsofgettysburg.com. Contact writer Monica Orosz at mon...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4830. ” - Monica Orosz
“West Virginia Musicians Commemorate Civil War Battle With "The Fields Of Gettysburg By Bryan Gibson Published Wed, Apr 24, 2013 12:18 pm Dateline Vienna, W.Va. Updated Wed, Apr 24, 2013 2:19 pm This weekend, audience members at Marietta's Adelphia Music Hall will be transported back in time when several of West Virginia's finest musicians present The Fields of Gettysburg, a song cycle by Vienna singer-songwriter John Walsh. Almost five years in the making, The Fields of Gettysburg stems from Walsh's longtime interest in the Civil War and his friendship with fellow musicians Todd Burge and Bill White. With some help from top-notch players, including Tim O'Brien, Larry Groce and members of the Mountain Stage band, Walsh's musical dream was finally realized when the album was released last month. I caught up with John Walsh to discuss the album, the musicians and his hopes for The Fields of Gettysburg. BG: What inspired you to start this project? JW: I didn't really gain more than a passing interest in Civil War history until I was serving in the US Air Force from 1987-1996. At that point, military history was always a part of my professional training and Ken Burns' Civil War series came out on PBS around that time. That series sparked a serious interest in learning more about this point in history for me. I became focused on U.S. Grant for a research paper and he really served as a "gateway" character into my still-fervent American Civil War fascination. BG: Why did you choose the Battle of Gettysburg as the subject matter for the album? JW: For almost as long as I've been interested in the Civil War, I have been focused on the Gettysburg saga. It's such a complex story with an unbelievable "cast" of characters--from Robert E. Lee to the unfortunate Jennie Wade, who is a character inThe Fields of Gettysburg. A couple of the generals evolved into role models for me: Union General John Buford and Confederate General James Longstreet. I have studied both of these men pretty intently and admire each equally, primarily because of their moral fortitude and earnest and ethical approach to facing enormous hardship. So, The Fields of Gettysburgstarted with these two characters in mind. BG: So you've been interested in this topic for quite some time; when did you actually start working on the album? JW: It wasn't until 2008 that I became inspired to put together some kind of musical story based upon certain events and people involved in Gettysburg. I have an article onThe FOG Blog that explains that moment of inspiration: Indeed, there are numerous fascinatingly complex personalities that emanate from both sides of the conflict. Generals Buford & Longstreet, for example, I greatly and equally admire. To me, they represent the moral bookends at the Battle of Gettysburg. Other American giants toiled on the fields of Gettysburg: Robert E. Lee, Joshua Chamberlain, George Meade, JEB Stuart, John Reynolds, Winfield Hancock, George Pickett, and John Bell Hood…to name a few. But none of those struck as personal of a chord with me more so than Longstreet & Buford. In fact, the first time I visited Gettysburg, we approached from the west and wound up coming straight down Route 30/Chambersburg Road (a.k.a., the Cashtown Road) into town. The kids needed a restroom break and we stopped at a little rest area that turned out to be the Guide Station. Directly across the Cashtown Road stand the statues of both Brigadier General John Buford and Major General John Reynolds. I realized that we had inadvertently started our journey to Gettysburg exactly where the battle itself had begun. When the kids were ready, we went across to see the monuments. I was overwhelmed standing at that place...I could feel the gravity of the thousands of souls who flooded into Gettysburg in July of 1863. I felt something immeasurable and indescribable--a mix of respect, honor, humility, and reverence. It was just one of those unique moments in life where it all came into focus and I realized how much bigger all of it is than me. At that moment, somewhere in my subconscious, the seed for The Fields of Gettysburg was planted. I also decided, from that experience, that the song cycle would start there, at dawn on July 1, 1863, with General Buford studying the horizon up the Cashtown Road. I started working on the project--slowly--at that point in the summer of 2008. While I was dreaming up chord progressions and melodies, I did a lot of research and reading to ensure I had my facts straight. My intent was--and is--to honor the history while bringing the story to life by developing the personalities of the characters for the listeners. These characters of The Fields of Gettysburg were all very interesting people in very different ways, brought together by the horrendous circumstance of The Battle of Gettysburg. I finished writing the song cycle about a year ago, so I'd say four solid years elapsed during the creation of The Fields of Gettysburg. BG: You've got some very talented people on this album. How did this collaboration come about? JW: Yes, I agree...a fabulous array of talent on this record. I have played with several before and some not. When I finished the song cycle, I invited two of my close musical friends, Todd Burge and Bill White, to my house to hear the song cycle in its raw form. I have been playing music with Bill White since 1983. Todd and I have worked together musically in different capacities since around 1999. I thought I had something special going on with The Fields of Gettysburg, but I wanted these two guys to hear it and give me the real feedback I knew they would give me. Both were very enthusiastic about it once I played it for them. In addition to starting to dream up arrangements and potential players for the record we would surely make, Todd wanted to help produce it. Starting that evening thinking about putting together a pretty stripped-down acoustic album, I came away very excited about Todd and Bill's enthusiasm. BG: In addition to Bill and Todd, you've got some of West Virginia's best musicians, including players from the Mountain Stage band. JW: We decided we needed Ted Harrison (bass), Michael Lipton (guitars), and Ammed Solomon (drums) as "the band," in addition to Bill (keys) and me (guitars/mandolin). I had played with Michael and Ted a few times before and was well aware of their respective prowess, but didn't know Ammed. What a percussionist he is! Perfect for this record. BG: Todd's been on Mountain Stage several times. Is that how Larry Groce came on board? JW: Yes. As we discussed who we might ask to narrate, Larry Groce was on top of the list from day one. Todd, in addition to the gents in the rhythm section, has known and worked with Larry for years. I had the opportunity to play a Bob Dylan tribute with him last year, but otherwise didn't know him personally. Todd familiarized Larry with the concept and he loved the idea and the script and agreed to narrate pretty early on. We hadn't recorded a note yet and Todd was earning his keep as co-producer already. BG: I'm guessing Tim O'Brien became involved through Todd as well. JW: We needed a fiddle on a few of the songs and were having some difficulty nailing a player down locally. I asked Todd at some point late last year, "How crazy would it be to ask Tim O'Brien if he would like to play the fiddle parts on the record?" Todd has been a long-time musical confidant of Tim's; in fact, they toured together during 2011/2012 for a while. Todd made the contact, Tim got on board and I was one happy camper! I did play a gig with both of them about two years ago as the opener to the opener...not sure if anyone remembers that except me. BG: Who are the singers on the album? JW: As for vocalists, we had Todd and myself to play the roles of the generals, but we needed four other vocalists for the remaining characters. David George, my friend and musical collaborator since junior high school, and I began searching for and demo-testing vocalists in his River Rat Studio in Marietta. We selected the two female parts pretty quickly. DJ Archer sings the part of Jennie Wade. I've known her since she was a young kid singing in our church on Sundays. Jessica Baldwin, a voice and piano coach/instructor by day and jazz-fusion musician by night, sings Mary Wade. I knew of Jessica, but did not know her. I invited her to give the Mary Wade song a whirl. Her demo was magical and her performance on The Fields of Gettysburg is one of the greatest moments in my musical history. The two male voices were a little tougher to find. Then, I received an email from Justin Arthur asking if we were still looking for vocalists. He said "two of my favorite things are music and civil war history..." We invited him over to the studio. Once he sang a couple tunes, we knew we had our Wesley Culp. Justin is the character actor of the record. He actually visited Gettysburg after getting the part on the record and made it a point to get some meditation time in on Culp's Hill, which he sings about on the track "Same Hill. Finally, by way of a recommendation from Ron Sowell (Mountain Stage band leader), we came upon Colton Pack to sing Jack Skelly. Colton is just 18 years old but has the voice of a Nashville star. He is wonderfully gifted and gives perfect voice to Jack Skelly's two songs on the record. One side note: I originally recorded the entire record on my iPhone at my house and passed around these rough tracks for folks to learn the songs and determine the keys they wanted to sing in, etc. It was pretty rustic, but it worked! BG: From the credits, it looks like the album was recorded in a bunch of different studios. What was it like to assemble the record piece by piece, sometimes long-distance? JW: We recorded the band tracks with Michael, Ted, Ammed and me at Josh Antonuccio's 3 Elliott Studio in Athens in early November 2012. Then, over the course of November 2012 to February 2013, we did the vocal tracks, keyboards (Bill White), mandolin, nylon string guitar, extra guitars, harmonica (Todd Burge), penny whistle (Julie Zickefoose) and cellos (Cynthia Puls) back in Marietta at Dave's River Rat Studio. David George also appears in a couple of cameo guitar and piano passages. Larry did his tracks in Charleston and Tim did his in Nashville. With the miracle of wav files and Dropbox, we pulled the tracks together. Nine of the completed tracks were mixed at 3 Elliott and the remaining three were mixed at River Rat. The incomparable Don Dixon provided mastering of the mixed record (and yes, he is another friend of Todd's). Let me just say that all of these folks are great people and poured themselves into the process of creating The Fields of Gettysburg. It shows in the beautiful record that resulted. And, no, I don't mind saying that...it is a beautiful record because of these fine people who brought their souls skills to the table. BG: You've got your first Fields of Gettysburg live performance coming up this weekend. Who will be playing with you? JW: We're scheduled for Saturday, April 27 at The Adelphia Music Hall in Marietta. Almost all the players and every one of the vocalists will be there for that show. Todd and I have the feelers out to do some more live performances throughout 2013, but nothing solid yet. BG: What can we expect from you in the future? JW: I haven't considered what's next yet. I want to see where this project can go. We are in the actual sesquicentennial year of The Battle of Gettysburg. This is a timeless story and it's a true one. As I mentioned, it also happens to be a beautiful record. I want to get this out to as many folks who will listen. I know this song cycle will bring enjoyment to the listener, while at the same time, honor this piece of American History and the people who sacrificed so much making that history, setting the stage for the way of life we relish today. The Fields of Gettysburg is available as a download at http://johnawalsh.bandcamp.com/album/the-fields-of-gettysburg. ” - Bryan Gibson
“New album with local connection tied to Gettysburg’s 150th anniversary April 25, 2013 By Paul LaPann - News and Sentinel.com , The Marietta Times A group of singers and musicians from the Mid-Ohio Valley and beyond has released a concept album commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. An album release concert for "The Fields of Gettysburg" will be 8 p.m. Saturday at the Adelphia Music Hall in Marietta. Tickets are available at the Galley, 374-8278, and online atwww.theadelphia.com Using story and song, "The Fields of Gettysburg" album recounts the important Civil War battle during Gettysburg's sesquicentennial year, July 1-3, 2013. John A. Walsh of Vienna, Americana singer/songwriter, composed the song cycle of 12 tracks, complete with six historical characters and an interwoven narrative. The Fields of Gettysburg" tells the story of six Americans "whose lives intertwine in a tragic tale of intense duty and personal sacrifice, conflicted allegiance, young love dashed, and innocence lost. The album, released March 31, features singers and musicians who all hail from or live in the Appala-chian region. Singer songwriter Todd Burge of Parkersburg co-produced the album with Walsh and sings the role of Union Gen. John Buford. Walsh, a Marietta native, sings the role of Confederate Gen. James Longstreet and is the recording's primary guitarist. Buford and Longstreet are the moral bookends for the song cycle, Walsh said. Three childhood friends from Gettysburg, Pa., become entangled in a "curious scenario" as two of the characters find themselves on opposite sides at the Battle of Gettysburg. Others involved in the musical project are Mountain Stage co-founder and host Larry Groce as the narrator, Grammy winner Tim O'Brien on fiddle, West Virginia Music Hall of Fame founder/director Michael Lipton on electric guitar, Mountain Stage band veteran Ammed Solomon on drums and percussion, Bill White of Marietta on piano and organ, and Carpenter Ant/Mountain Stage regular Ted Harrison on bass guitar. Providing voice for the six characters, besides Walsh and Burge, are Jessica Baldwin as Mary Wade, Justin Arthur as Wesley Culp, Colton Pack as Jack Skelly and D.J. Archer as Jennie Wade. Also contributing to the album are Julie Zickefoose playing the penny whistle, Cynthia Puls playing the cello, David George as co-executive producer/engineer (River Rat Studio in Marietta) and guitar and piano cameos, Josh Antonuccio as engineer (3 Elliott Studio, Athens) and Don Dixon with soundtrack mastering. For more information visit www.thefieldsofgettysburg.com. The direct link to the album store is johnawalsh.bandcamp.com The CD can be purchased at Stuff We All Give & Get (S.W.A.G.G.), 175 Front St., Marietta. ” - Paul LaPann
— The Marietta Times
“Legendary Record Producer & Musician, Don Dixon says: I think the record is fascinating...great concept; it draws you in to the human experience of this iconic conflict...makes emotional connections with the dry, historic characters both famous and common...I think it will help people young and old, take a fresh look at The War Between the States...plus it's a lot shorter than those Shelby Foote books! For more on Don Dixon: www.dondixonmusic.com Renowned West Virginia Folk Singer/Songwriter, Todd Burge says: From a songwriter’s point of view, John Walsh’s new project, The Fields of Gettysburg, is a dream come true. Walsh has put a lot of time and study into a subject that should resonate with both history buffs and music lovers alike. He has taken stories from one of the most pivotal battles of the Civil war and put them into songs that are rich, visual and contemporary. After nearly three decades of fine songwriting and musicianship, “The Fields of Gettysburg” is John Walsh’s crowning achievement. www.toddburge.com Record Producer & Engineer, Josh Antonuccio says: Simply put, this is historical narrative at its finest. 'Fields of Gettysburg' is an intimate and engaging musical journey through a battle that came to define the outcome and the legacy of the Civil War. Culling together an impressive collection of West Virginia's finest players, performers, and producers, songwriter John Walsh has given his audience a poignant and personal narrative of the lives that were touched by those three bloody days in 1863. Engaging lyricism, broad soundscapes, and impeccable performances carry the listener through the haunting and harrowing tales of the Fields of Gettysburg. www.3elliottstudio.com Having played in several bands and recorded with John Walsh, it is not surprise that he has written some great music. BUT, this project is special! The story that is told in song form is amazing on so many levels, and the musicianship is as good as it gets! The way the story of the only civilian casualty in this historic battle is told should be on everyone's listening list! A true one of a kind musical experience." H.David Laing, Ohio Listening to it again right now. I love how the songs complement the story of the battle that's being told. Also, the instrumentals are superb! I'm so happy that I decided to buy your masterpiece early!" Bill King, Ohio Just checked my mailbox and found my copy of FOG. Have been listening to the downloaded version that was sent to me right after my pre-sale purchase. I cannot say enough about it. It is terrific. My husband is also enjoying it. He is a retired American History teacher and this was his favorite history era. Thanks John and company for what you have done with this." Francia Engle, Ohio The spiritual side to the music could lend itself easily to use in churches! Absolutely beautiful! Denise Kerr, West Virginia Wow! Thank you John Walsh for a brilliant new album." Ridgely Davis, Pennsylvania I finally got time to sit and listen to FOG from beginning to end. In a word, it was amazing. Though I wasn't prepared for it, your songwriting and storytelling genius stirred emotions as I followed the story to the end. The talent you assembled and guided produced a true work of art. Well done!" Andrew Colvin, West Virginia An old friend of mine and a great American, John Walsh, just released this album. It's a combination of well-known military history, unknown (to me) vignettes, and fabulous music, telling a bit of the story of Gettysburg in a unique way. John achieved what every musician hopes to: he made at least one listener (me) contemplate life, death, and love in a new way. The music is already sticking in my head, and I can hardly wait for my next road trip to be able to listen to the whole album without interruption. Amazing work, John (and friends)!" Michael Goyette, Maryland”
— Praise for "The Fields of Gettysburg"
“Civil War music project nets talent December 22, 2012 By PAUL LaPANN (firstname.lastname@example.org) , Parkersburg News and Sentinel John A. Walsh of Vienna has brought together an impressive group of singers, songwriters and musicians for "The Fields of Gettysburg" project. In the works for the past three years, "The Fields of Gettysburg" tells the story of the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War and a tragic love story through narration and 12 songs. The record album is scheduled to be recorded by the end of this month with a release date in the spring, said Walsh, a singer/songwriter and guitarist who has been a student of Civil War history for 20 years. Walsh noted his project will coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, and West Virginia's Sesquicentennial next year. Participants in the project include Larry Groce, host and artistic director of West Virginia Public Radio's Mountain Stage, as narrator; Walsh, The FOG's composer who sings the role of Confederate Gen. James Longstreet in the song cycle; Todd Burge of Parkersburg, co-producer who sings the role of Union Gen. John Buford; Jessica Baldwin of Marietta, the voice of Mary Wade; Justin Arthur, who sings the role of Wesley Culp; D.J. Archer, who sings the role of Jennie Wade; Colton Pack, who sings as Jack Skelly; Grammy-winning Tim O'Brien plays the fiddle; Ted Harrison, bass guitar; Ammed Solomon, drums and percussion; Michael Lipton of the Carpenter Ants, electric guitar; Bill White of Marietta, piano and keyboard; Cynthia Puls of Parkersburg, cello, and Julie Zickefoose, penny whistle. Walsh wrote all of the songs for The FOG, which includes many styles of Americana music. We have stellar musicians working on the project," Walsh said. "I am excited in the way it sounds. The music enhances the story. Recording has been done at David George's River Rat Studio in Marietta, at Josh Antonuccio's 3 Elliott Studio in Athens, and at studios in Nashville and Charleston. Burge said he was impressed by the high quality of the production and the "great singers" who joined the project. Walsh hopes his project entices others to study the Civil War. The website is www.thefieldsofgettysburg.com. *** ” - Paul LaPann