via Cooking Vinyl


Billy Bragg and Joe Henry

Oct. 17
7 p.m.
Alt-Country, Americana, Folk

While researching the English pre-rock sensation skiffle, U.K. folkie and renowned lefty Billy Bragg discovered a slew of American train song covers, including Lonnie Donegan’s version of “Rock Island Line.” Which got him thinking about the historic, revolutionary role of railroads and the untapped potential of contemporary U.S. rail travel. That prompted Bragg to recruit pal Joe Henry, Americana singer-songwriter and producer extraordinaire, for a rail journey from Chicago to San Antonio and Los Angeles, busking along the way in stations and trackside with a repertoire of classic train fare from the likes of Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, and John Hartford. The impromptu recordings, ambient noise included, were released last month on Shine a Light: Field Recordings From the Great American Railroad, which cops its title from Leadbelly’s “The Midnight Special.” With just acoustic guitars, inspired spirit, and warm harmonies, Bragg and Henry illuminate afresh these wonderful, often taken for granted rail tunes.