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Billy Bragg & Joe Henry explore America’s railways on new LP, touring this fall

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In March, 2016, Billy Bragg and Joe Henry took a train from Chicago to Los Angeles and, over the course of the four-day trip, recorded classic railroad folk and blues standards at various stations along the way. The result is the new album, Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad, which they recorded live at train stations. It will be out September 23 via Cooking Vinyl. Says Bragg:

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 my 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. 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. 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.

You can check out an interactive map of their trip with commentary from Bragg and Henry, and watch a trailer for the album, where they record “Midnight Special” (which has been covered by everyone from CCR to ABBA) below.

Billy Bragg and Joe Henry will tour the album this fall, including a NYC stop on September 29 at the New York Society For Ethical Culture. Tickets for that show will be on sale soon.

All tour dates are listed, along with album art and tracklist, below.

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Billy Bragg & Joe Henry – Shine A Light tracklist
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 (Glen 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

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry – North American Tour Dates:
9/23 – Americana Festival – Nashville, TN
9/24 – Americana Festival – Nashville, TN
9/27 – Birchmere – Alexandria, VA
9/28 – Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA
9/29 – New York Society For Ethical Culture – New York, NY
10/2 – The Wilbur – Boston, MA
10/4 – Bronson Centre – Ottawa, ON
10/5 – Danforth Music Hall – Toronto, ON
10/17 – Cedar Cultural Center – Minneapolis, MN
10/18 – Thalia Hall – Chicago, IL
10/21 – Neptune Theatre – Seattle, WA
10/22 – Aladdin Theater – Portland, OR
10/24 – Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA
10/25 – The Palace – Los Angeles, CA

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