Folksongs are a wonderful vehicle for adding the personal dimension to studies of American History. Multi-talented Keith and Rusty McNeil sing and narrate folksongs pertaining to various places and eras in our country's history on these audiocassette sets. I think a quote from their brochure characterizes the purpose of these tapes very well: "Just as the historian provides students with an ‘overview' of history by looking from the outside in, the folksong provides an ‘innerview' of the attitudes and emotions of the actual participants of historical events, preserving them exactly as they were expressed at the time." Songs are interspersed with narrative details for background and setting to enhance learning and understanding.
There are, at present, nine volumes in this series: Colonial & Revolution Songs, Moving West Songs, Western Railroad Songs, Civil War Songs, Working and Union Songs, Cowboy Songs, and two volumes of California Songs. There are from 36 to 60 songs contained on two audio cassettes or CDs per volume. Each volume is broken down into theme areas; for example, Moving West Songs takes us through "Territorial Expansion and Abolition," "Texas and the Mexican War," "Minstrel Shows and the California Gold Rush," "Western Railroad Songs," and "Immigrants from China, Ireland, and Germany." Each set has supplemental notes that add a few details about the origin of lyrics and tunes as well as history that are not covered in the actual narration. Optional songbooks are available for some of these books at from $11.95 to $15.95.
The folksongs are performed with a variety of instruments and, of course, reflect many differing musical styles, so the tapes do not get boring. Those who appreciate folk music already will recognize familiar tunes and musical styles, and those unfamiliar will be getting a musical education.
Great for all children up to about eighth grade level, but also fun for adults.