In honor of Memorial Day 2010, Cat Martino releases her alluring song about Jennie Hodgers, turned Civil War Veteran, Albert Cashier.
“Last May (2009), I woke up to read a story on NPR about Jennie Hodgers, a woman who changed her identity to Albert Cashier to fight in the Civil War,” says Martino. “Her story was so compelling, I went straight with my morning coffee to my guitar to write her life song.”
The song opens with a psycedelic bluesy-folk feel. “I wanted to aurally capture morning mist and smokey gun barrels.” We hear a tenor guitar, wrapped in organ, a banjo, and then the confessional voice remembering. The choruses of harmonizing delayed voices are the angelic ghost of the woman Jennie left behind in becoming Cashier.
Jennie’s gone down below
Her blue vest’s last brass button she’d sewn
Her feather white skin now no man will know
“It seems this was a more exciting life for her, like first women of rock n’ roll. Her options were limited; Stay in one place and raise a family, or see the country, earn a monthly wage, and have voting rights. My 1934 Martin guitar gives me the freedom Cashier got from holding that rifle”.
By the 2nd verse, Hodgers turned Cashier speaks to his General:
Dear General, the homefront was dull / As good as I am, as any Gentleman
I traded my finger prick, to burn out the wick / The thimble thumb stifled, now triggers my rifle
Last is a chorus of echoing La’s in the gentle hint of campfire or tender barroom singing amongst the soldiers, amidst the loneliness and sirens singing of women gone.
“I read on NPR that Cashier was found out in a Veteran’s hospital while having some late life dementia. This song comes from the perspective of that moment, a delirious confession from a hospital bed. Cashier is filled with love, but secrets and regrets too, a very human story. He begins telling the tale to this nurse, and becomes so nostalgic the lines blur and thinks he is on the field with soldiers again, or writing a letter to the General.”
“I related to the tale, as my first tours were with Joe and Robin Bennett from Oxfordishire (from Dreaming Spires and Truckfest). Then straight to opening with Mark Gardener (from Ride) for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, where I was the only woman touring with 17 men. I was well respected musically. I loved bein one of the boys, and doin it well, the thrill of being on the road and seeing the country. Since then I’ve traveled with countless amazingly talented women as well…”
Jenni’s Gone Down
Preview of recent Take Away Show with Sharon Van Etten
Photo by Andre Constantini