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The music of yesterday, today
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Members of the Newton County Historical Society organized a free concert given by David Leinweber - musician and associate professor of history at Oxford College of Emory University - Thursday evening at the library.

Leinweber and partner Robert McMillan played guitar and sang American and European folksongs and gave the approximately 50 attendees historical background about each of the songs.

"Well, gee, this is warm and intimate," McMillan said.

The British folksong "The Fox" began the program, which also included other British, Irish and Scottish tunes.

"Georgie" was a heartbreaking story about an Elizabethan woman whose husband had been imprisoned for poaching 16 of the queen's deer.

"It's a beautiful old song and was heard as early as the 1580s," Leinweber said.

The desperate woman pleads with the judge to release her husband, who she said she would sacrifice her children for, but the judge tells her he has already been hanged.

"Flowers of Edinburgh" is a well-known Scottish tune traditionally played on the fiddle or bagpipe.

"I was at a festival in Scotland and when I played this song, everyone was humming along," Leinweber said.

Another song usually played on the fiddle was the Irish folksong "Whiskey before Breakfast."

"It's a song," Leinweber joked, "not a life-style."

He said even though children know the song in Ireland, he changed the name of it on his album to "Old Irish Fiddle Tune."

"Just so my mom wouldn't get upset or anything," Leinweber, a father of two and pianist for Newborn United Methodist, said.

Rounding out the night's melodies from the British Isle were "Red Red Rose" about England's Glorious Revolution and "Skye Boat Song" about the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden.

The Glorious Revolution occurred in 1688 when William of Orange and Mary Queen of Scots deposed James II, William's uncle and Mary's father, for the throne of the British Isles.

In 1745, Charles Edward Stuart or "Bonnie Prince Charlie" - the son of James II - attempted to reinstate the Stuart line to the throne by organizing an army comprised mainly of Scottish clansmen.

The ensuing and extremely brutal Battle of Culloden in Scotland was the last battle fought on British soil. "Skye Boat Song" details Charles' escape from the bloodshed to the Island of Skye.

Charles retreated to Italy and never again tried to regain the throne.

The theme of death and murder permeated into the American songs Leinweber and McMillan played.

"I always like to point out justice is always done at the end," Leinweber said.

"Little Sadie" was a ballad about a man who killed a woman and fled to Juarez, Mexico.

Leinweber said the main character of the song "Bill Cheatham" is uncertain.

"The closest I've ever come to an accurate association is that he is the Confederate general out of Tennessee," Leinweber said.

Benjamin F. Cheatham led Confederate divisions at the battles of Shiloh and Chickamauga as well as defending Atlanta outposts against William T. Sherman's forces.

This song transitioned into "Dooley," an Appalachian tune made nationally famous by the performance of the fictional Darling family on the "Andy Griffith Show."

"Deep River Blues" a song about the Mississippi River also transitioned into a similarly themed song "When the Levee Breaks."

"It's about the terrible Mississippi River flood of 1927," Leinweber said.

The last time the Mississippi had a major flood besides during 2005's Hurricane Katrina, was the Great Flood of 1993 which affected areas along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers causing extensive damage.

"Dill Pickle Rag" featured a ragtime sound.

"Sometimes Europeans and others forget America has its own unique musical styles," Leinweber said.

Many consider ragtime, jazz and the blues as truly American art forms.

Leinweber and McMillan ended with the song "In the End" - a Leinweber original.

"It's probably one of the prettiest songs and I'm just in love with it," McMillan said. "It needs to be on the radio - I don't know what station would play it, but it needs to be on the radio."

The gentle song compares a poker game to life.

"The cards that you've been given, are the cards you've got to play," Leinweber sang. The final message of the song is in the end people are left with "the music in your spirit and the love that comes to you."

Audience members requested an encore, so the men played the ditty "Blackberry Blossom."

James Griffin, president of the Newton County Historical Society, said the next performance they will sponsor will be in the spring and will be open to the public as always.

"Our purpose here is really education and awareness and that's the direction we want to go," Griffin said. "History is really who we are."

Copies of Leinweber's albums are available at