While writing a novel I like to find a certain CD or maybe a few of them that put me into the story. This will be music that kindles the landscape and time of wherever and whenever my current story is set. That makes me see the characters. That tugs the strings of my heart back through time to some moment in their lives I'm either writing, or have written.
While writing a story set on a North Carolina plantation in 1793 it was a collection of songs called No Man Can Hinder Me, The Journey from Slavery to Emancipation through Song.
While writing a story about a woman coming back to her home in frontier New York, 1784, it was the soundtrack to Last of the Mohicans.
This past year, writing about western North Carolina, 1787, it's been the soundtrack to Ken Burns' Lewis & Clark Documentary. I think Burns' documentaries are some of the best out there, and this one tops my list of all his work. Some of my favorite musicians took part in the making of the soundtrack, notable among them John and Phil Cunningham, of the Silly Wizard Band.
If you haven't yet seen it, or it's been a while, you can watch the first part of the documentary here: http://blip.tv/lee/lewis-and-clark-episode-1-591912
And here is a solo mandolin player's rendition of "Beech Spring," one of the main themes from the Lewis & Clark soundtrack. This takes me right to the over-mountain frontier, 1787. Every time.