England’s Billy Bragg has teamed with America’s Joe Henry to collaborate on ‘Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad’.
Says Billy, “Railroad songs provided the bedrock of American popular music, from Jimmie Rodgers, the Singing Brakeman, to Lead Belly, whose repertoire provided several of the songs for this project. In this country, Lonnie Donegan’s 1956 hit ‘Rock Island Line’ sparked the skiffle craze, inspiring a generation of British teens to pick up guitars and form the groups that invaded American in the 60s, from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin.
As a pom, Bragg learned about the railroad culture in the US during his tours. “Growing up in the UK, I’d always been aware of this tradition but when I traveled to the US, I was surprised to find how few people look to the railroad as a means of transport,” he added. “With this project, we wanted to explore the transformative power that the coming of the railroad had on the lives of ordinary people by taking these songs back to the places that inspired their creation. Traveling on the train and recording the songs as we went allowed us to both visit places that were important 125 years ago when the lines were laid, but to also explore the viability of the railroad as a means of transport in the 21st century.”
The railroad life was more attuned to Henry’s upbringing. “The emergence of the railroad in America boasted of our might and sprawling enormity, yet signaled a deep desire for close community, connectivity,” Joe said. “The songs that grew out of and alongside this innovation remain to tell this story of collective national character.”
‘Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad’ will be released on September 23 through Cooking Vinyl.
Shine A Light tracklisting
1. Rock Island Line – Traditional
(Recorded by Lead Belly, Lonnie Donegan)
2. The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore – Jean Ritchie
3. The Midnight Special – Traditional (Lead Belly)
4. Railroad Bill – Traditional (Riley Puckett)
5. Lonesome Whistle – Hank Williams
6. KC Moan – Traditional (The Memphis Jug Band)
7. Waiting For A Train – Jimmie Rodgers
8. In The Pines – Traditional
(Lead Belly, The Louvin Brothers)
9. Gentle On My Mind – John Hartford
(Glenn Campbell, Aretha Franklin)
10. Hobo’s Lullaby – Goebel Reeves (Woody Guthrie)
11. Railroading On The Great Divide – Sara Carter (The Carter Family)
12. John Henry – Traditional (Doc Watson)
13. Early Morning Rain – Gordon Lightfoot
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