THE ORPHAN BRIGADE
SOUNDTRACK TO A GHOST STORY
This is a ghost story set to music… The documentary follows a group of musicians (The Orphan Brigade) as they spent a year writing and recording an album in one of the most haunted houses in the Southern United States. (The Octagon Hall, Franklin, KY) The group set out to tell the story of this eerie architectural oddity and of the family, soldiers, and servants who lived and died there. The group looked for inspiration and possible encounters with the spirits of this place. In the end they found that and much more.
The house became a symbol of how we are all haunted by the things that we cannot let go of. While tracing the lives of these 19th century characters they found a window into universal themes that we all face. What do we leave behind? Will we be remembered or do we ultimately become invisible? Are our beliefs just illusions we hold onto to justify the things we do? If we hold on too tightly to our causes will they ultimately destroy us? These musicians came to tell the story of this house and in the process told their own story…
A Film By:
Neilson Hubbard, Joshua Britt & Jim DeMain
Directed by: Neilson Hubbard & Joshua Britt
Voiceover - Gretchen Peters
WINNER - SPECIAL JURY AWARD IN THE DOCUMENTARY CATEGORY - CINEMA ON THE BAYOU FILM FESTIVAL (LAFAYETTE, LA)
WINNER - SOUTHERN SPOTLIGHT AWARD - SOUTHEASTERN FILM FESTIVAL
OFFICIAL SELECTION - NASHVILLE FILM FESTIVAL
NOMINATED FOR BEST ORIGINAL SONG - NASHVILLE FILM FESTIVAL
OFFICIAL SELECTION - BARE BONES FILM FESTIVAL
OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO
The Orphan Brigade: Soundtrack to a Ghost Story
Neilson Hubbard, Ben Glover, Joshua Britt, and Others
Tell Stories from a Haunted History on New Album and Documentary
“Everyone loves a good ghost story,” producer Neilson Hubbard says, explaining the rhymes and reasons behind his latest project, The Orphan Brigade: Soundtrack to a Ghost Story. “People seem fascinated. People want to know more about it. I think that is the same way we got hooked into the project. You get drawn in by this mystery, but in the end it's not about whether it's real or not.”
Melding roots music with Southern history to create and capture Americana in the purest sense of the word, Hubbard, along with singer/songwriters Joshua Britt and Ben Glover, made a new album and a companion documentary an hour north of Nashville in Franklin, Kentucky, at the Octagon Hall — a Civil War-era plantation house which just so happens to be haunted.
Like the rest of the South, the Octagon Hall has a complicated, often tragic past. The house was built by Andrew Jackson Caldwell, a Confederate sympathizer, in the mid-1800s. He lived there until his death in 1866, and his second wife Harriet stayed on until 1918. Taking the “Orphan Brigade” nickname of the First Kentucky Brigade as their own, Hubbard, Britt, and Glover looked to the Hall's history for inspiration. “We had some writings by soldiers who were part of the Orphan Brigade who were stationed near Octagon Hall during the Civil War,” Glover offers. “These, along with other journals and poetry written by those who fought in this area, gave us very personal and intimate accounts of their experiences. Those resources allowed us to have a glimpse of what it must have been like for them and gave us the opportunity to stand in their shoes via their words.”
Hubbard adds, “It started with a fascination and then it grew into a much wider story. We were talking about much more than ghosts and history. We were talking about bigger and wider themes that reach into the core of us all, personally. In an effort to explain that process, we realized we were making a documentary. The journey of the record and film is one of inward self-reflection, not just a ghost hunt.”
They might not have been hunting ghosts, but ghosts they did find... some of which got caught on tape and made their way into the record and film. As Britt tells it, “It was fun for a while — a group of people all hearing what sounded like feet walking on the floor upstairs. As time went on, it definitely started to get to me... eventually hearing giant crashes and voices when no one was there. I was there in a group of four to five people when we took a picture of an empty hallway and there was a little girl on the screen. I was looking at the dark empty place when he snapped the picture and saw it on his screen right then so I know it's not messed with.”
To write, record, and film, the trio — along with Gretchen Peters, Kim Richey and others — set up camp (and gear) in the Octagon Hall. The songs flowed from there. Glover says, “The house was incredibly giving from the word go. We felt as if it was giving us the songs — it wanted to express itself via the music and we were just conduits.”
Right out of the gate, the mandolin- and snare-driven “Pale Horse” sounds the record's shibboleth through both soaring choruses and a gentle declaration: “We’re known forever by the tracks we leave.” The album's first single, “Trouble My Heart (Oh Harriet),” is up next and wastes no time making its point. Here, Glover sounds like a roadside prophet being baptized in a river and pleading with a demon to leave him be. And, in fact, that's not far off the mark. On one of Glover's visits to the house, some paranormal investigators claimed to have picked up Harriet’s presence and said she had taken a liking to Glover.
Further into the collection, Hubbard's “Don’t Take My Sweetheart Away” lifts the spirit of revival way up high before “Last June Light” drops its dreams of war on the ground. Richey steps up to “The Story You Tell Yourself” which leans into the soldiers' tales to make both literal and metaphorical points about justifying our actions.
The historical themes carry through “We Were Marching on Christmas Day,” “Good Old Flag,” “Cursed Be the Wanderer,” and “Whistling Walk” which relates to a story that the Octagon Hall slaves were made to whistle while carrying food so their owners would know they weren’t eating as they walked to the house. ”Paddy’s Lamentation,” an Irish folk ballad, stands as the only traditional among the collection of originals composed and recorded by Britt, Glover, and Hubbard over the course of six months.
Hubbard says, “[We had] a one-time chance to capture something. It wouldn't sound the same if we went tomorrow and did it again. We captured the feeling and essence of that place. We got lucky.”
1. Octagon Hall Prelude
2. Pale Horse
3. Trouble My Heart (Oh Harriet)
4. I’ve Seen the Elephant
6. Last June Light
7. The Story You Tell Yourself
8. We Were Marching on Christmas Day
9. Whistling Walk
10. Good Old Flag
11. Cursed Be the Wanderer
12. Paddy’s Lamentation
13. Goodnight Mary
14. The Orphans
Produced by Neilson Hubbard
Recorded on location at the Octagon Hall Museum
Feature length documentary available at www.theorphanbrigade.com
All songs by Neilson Hubbard, Ben Glover, and Joshua Britt
except for “Paddy’s Lamentation” (traditional arranged by Ben Glover)
and “Octagon Hall Prelude” by Danny Mitchell
The Orphan Brigade
Neilson Hubbard got his start as a singer/songwriter in the mid-'90s, releasing six solo albums on labels such as E Pluribus Unun (owned by Counting Crows' Adam Duritz), Parasol, and Media Creature. Since that time, Hubbard has produced albums for many top-tiered and critically acclaimed artists including Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket), Kim Richey, the Farewell Drifters, the Apache Relay, and Ryan Culwell. His collaborations with Nashville-based artist Matthew Perryman Jones have found their way into the soundtracks of TV shows such as Private Practice, One Tree Hill, Bones, and Grey's Anatomy, as well as several major motion pictures.
Ben Glover's childhood in the sleepy seaside village of Glenarm in the north of Ireland had a soundtrack from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. So, when he started playing gigs in the local pub at the age of 13, he played Irish music, of course, but he also slipped in songs from Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. In the summers of his university years, Glover paid his way across the pond by performing Irish folk ballads along with the songs of Christy Moore and the Pogues in the bars in Boston, while back home in the pubs of Ireland he was singing Dylan and Springsteen. In 2009, Glover relocated to Nashville and immersed himself in Southern culture. He began exploring the locations that were closely associated with the music he grew up listening to — Hank Williams' tombstone in Montgomery, Alabama; Johnny Cash's childhood home in Dyess, Arkansas; Robert Johnson's grave in Greenwood, Mississippi. Those experiences informed and infused the soul of his most recent solo album, Atlantic.
Joshua Britt grew up in a family of artists and musicians 45 minutes south of Bill Monroe's Kentucky homestead and 20 minutes away from the hometown of "Newgrass" mandolin innovator Sam Bush in what could easily be called the "Mandolin Music Capital of the World." Old forms of music and art are in his Kentucky blood and he grew up obsessed with everything from Old Appalachian harmony singing to digging through fields for arrowheads. Britt has focused on incorporating some of those older and more hard-wired aesthetics and textures into his own art. As a founding member of the Farewell Drifters, Britt has performed across the U.S., Canada, Japan, and China and landed two records on Billboard's bluegrass albums chart.
Gretchen Peters, Kim Richey, Kris Donegan, Heather Donegan, Dean Marold, Eamon McLoughlin, and Dan Mitchell
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