This ambitious 74-minute train song compilation — 10 years in the making is an array of traditional & contemporary railroad songs by varied artists. The only thing missing — the late Boxcar Willie who could imitate a great train whistle.
The set features artists from distinguished bands – some familiar others not so much. There are 19 cuts like Chip & Tony Kinman (Rank & File) composed “The Conductor Wore Black.” Songs by Graham Nash Curtis Mayfield, John Stewart, Jimmie Rodgers, Elizabeth Cotton & others.
The lead-off “Here Comes That Train Again,” with Stephen McCarthy & Carla Olson rides the track swiftly & straight. Rocky Burnette (“Tired of Toeing the Line”) & James Intveld contribute individually — a cover of “Mystery Train.” Both include Barry Goldberg (piano & B3). Mickey Raphael plays harmonica on Rocky’s. While neither are as rustic & primitive as Elvis Presley’s 1955 classic cover of the Junior Parker song Rocky (son of the late rockabilly singer Johnny Burnette) does pour on energy & polish.
The collection was primarily produced by Carla Olson (co-produced by Saul Davis) the accumulative talent is impressive on Americana Railroad (Drops June 17-Renew/BMG). It features many interesting covers faithfully reproduced & it’s a good introduction to some under-the-radar artists who provide disciplined performances.
Peter Case’s “This Train,” echoes vintage depression-era America. A traditional tune originally arranged by Sister Rosetta Tharpe; Case includes a smoking locomotive chugging harmonica. The late Steve Goodman’s “The City of New Orleans” (name of a train) became a classic by Arlo Guthrie & respectfully covered by John Fogerty & his family. Julie Fogerty produced. John doesn’t go full-throttle CCR vocally. Mickey’s harmonica returns.
Gene Clark & Bernie Leadon’s “Train Leaves Here In the Morning,” is an excellent Kai Clark cover with a Byron Berline fiddle. Rocker Gary Myrick offers “Train Kept a-Rollin’” with an incendiary performance by drummer Dusty Watson.
Dave Alvin rolls in with “Southwest Chief” co-written with Bill Morrissey. Session musician Freebo (9 years with Bonnie Raitt) performs with Alice Howe (“500 Miles”), which he produced & arranged. Some tunes are more traditionally inspired (Dom Flemons, Paul Burch & Fats Kaplin, AJ Haynes) while others are more modern. Procol Harum’s Keith Reid & Robin Trower’s classic smoker “Whiskey Train,” revived full-throttle by Carla Olson & Brian Ray. Impressive.
Additional songs have mixed results yet, performed stylistically — Robert Rex Waller (“Midnight Rail”), the Dustbowl Revival, John York & others. I would have added Don Nix’s great “The Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore,” – maybe there’ll be a Vol. 2.
So, put your ear to the track with this handsome 6-panel sepia CD that clearly outlines all players. American music would certainly be empty if there weren’t any songs about railroads. This country has had a romance with the train & it continues. CD available @ Target & Discogs among others. https://www.carlaolson.com/home.html
Enjoy our interview of Carla Olson on this project, here: Interview: Carla Olson On “Whiskey Train” from “Americana Railroad“