Billy Bragg and Joe Henry are bringing songs from their new album, ‘Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad’, to Union Chapel on 7 and 8 November 2016.
Featuring 13 railway-themed songs originally recorded by the likes of Hank Williams, Glenn Campbell, and Lead Belly, the album was recorded during a 65-hour journey on the Texas Eagle railroad service across the United States.
“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,” explains Bragg.
“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 America in the ‘60s, from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin,” he adds.
“Growing up in the UK, I’d always been aware of this tradition but when I travelled to the US, I was surprised to find how few people look to the railroad as a means of transport. 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.
“Travelling 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.”
Adds Henry, who produced Bragg’s 2013 album ‘Tooth & Nail’: “The emergence of the railroad in America boasted of our might and sprawling enormity, yet signalled a deep desire for close community, connectivity. 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’ is released on 23 September.