Lee's Raiders

Country music runs pieties out its mouth and salutes them

It's predictable that a contemporary-country collection of "New Songs of the Civil War" would double as a flagpole, and that its sympathies would skew Southern—though not always Confederate, as in Daron Norwood's "God and General Lee." "Shiloh (Presence of the Past)" sets the tone, with Darryl Worley, of all people, mouthing mild futility-of-war pieties from which most African Americans would demur: "Hell, no one really won." From here on out, America Will Always Stand groans under all the pomp and schmaltz chief writers Michaels Pyle and Curtis can muster, from the home-front homilies of Lee Ann Womack's "On a Woman's Heart" to the Michaels' 'Nam-vet allegory "I Still Hear the Guns." Ricky Skaggs's mandolin brightens several cuts, but his unassuming vocals can't save the inevitable brother-against-brother tale "Charlie & Johnny Reb," a flat stab at narrative balladry ("After being apart a couple of years/The Civil War broke out"). The title track is the ahistorical money shot, saluting "heroes" who "walked through fiery danger" before warning, "America is not divided/Our enemies think we'll be stopped." If a song has to out-jingo "God Bless the USA," grant it Randy Travis's stoic gravitas rather than Lee Greenwood's talent-show unction. No, don't: Someone might believe Travis.

 
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