In 1827, the first railroad opened in North America, chartering merchants from Baltimore to Ohio. Three years later, the first regularly scheduled steam-powered passenger train service began running in South Carolina. In a short time, trains and locomotive travel became all the rage in this country and from that popularity, an endless amount of songs, poetry and stories permeated every aspect of early American culture.
It wasn’t just the mere act of cross-country travel that inspired such writings, but all the romanticization that accompanied it, from the men who built the railroads to the soldiers boarding trains before heading off to war. If a person were to study the history of recorded music in America, you can almost hear the sounds of locomotives permeating the rhythms and beats of songs all throughout the early 1900s.
To say that trains haven’t played an important part in the development of music in American culture would be a gross understatement.
On June 17th, Americana Railroad — a compilation of some of the greatest train songs in American history — was released via Renew/BMG. The album was compiled by musician and producer Carla Olsen who states, “Growing up in Austin, Texas during the 1950s, the fascination with trains was the stuff childhood dreams were made of. Walking home from school, the temptation to put your ear to the track to hear if the train was close was a daily routine. We lived five blocks from the railway and heard the whistle of the trains well into the night. For some, the call was a way to escape small town blues; for others, thoughts of exotic destinations lured many to hop a freight and disappear over the horizon. The ‘Americana Railroad’ album is a collection of both history and metaphor for your listening and thought-provoking pleasure.”
Joining Carla is an all-star lineup of musicians, such as John Fogerty, Dave Alvin, Peter Case, Stephen McCarthy (of Jayhawks, Long Ryders), Rob Waller (of I See Hawks), Dustbowl Revival and many other roots and Americana artists. It’s a wonderful tribute to this vital part of American history. My personal favorite song on the album is “Train Kept A-Rollin’”, which, although written by Tiny Bradshaw, definitely holds true to the version later recorded by Rockabilly legend Johnny Burnette. I highly recommend this album for fans of Americana, but also for those of us who hang onto the nostalgia that trains have in our hearts.
Purchase or stream ‘Americana Railroad’ album:
- “Here Comes That Train Again”, Stephen McCarthy & Carla Olson
- “The Conductor Wore Black”, Robert Rex Waller Jr.
- “Mystery Train”, Rocky Burnette
- “This Train”, Peter Case
- “City Of New Orleans”, John Fogerty
- “Marrakesh Express”, Dustbowl Revival
- “Train Leaves Here This Morning”, Kai Clark
- “Train Kept A-Rollin’”, Gary Myrick
- “Southwest Chief”, Dave Alvin
- “500 Miles”, Alice Howe
- “People Get Ready”, Deborah Poppink
- “Steel Pony Blues”, Dom Flemons
- “Runaway Train”, John York
- “Waiting For A Train”, Paul Burch & Fats Kaplin
- “Freight Train”, AJ Haynes
- “Whiskey Train”, Carla Olson & Brian Ray
- “Mystery Train”, James Intveld
- “Midnight Rail”, Robert Rex Waller Jr.
- “I Remember The Railroad”, Stephen McCarthy & Carla Olson
Disclaimer: All views presented in this album review are those of the reviewer and not necessarily those of Top Shelf Music.