Billy Bragg & Joe Henry Ride Train, Release Album Together

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry Ride Train, Release Album Together 

On Saturday -October 1st, 2016 – Billy Bragg and Joe Henry celebrated the unleashing of their first album recorded as a duo, Shine A Light, with a show at Society of Ethical Culture.   Recently these two collaborated on Bragg’s excellent Tooth & Nail album of 2013 that Henry produced but they crossed paths initially almost thirty years ago.   At that time and in subsequent years, they found they shared plenty of common musical ground; least of which was not a love for Woody Guthrie.  In fact, when we were chatting before the show, Bragg compared the depth that he and Wilco were able to achieve in mining Guthrie’s work in on the Mermaid Avenue sessions to that in which he and Henry were able to accomplish with railroad-themed music on this project.  He suggested, as a Englishman working with Americans on each, the contrast in perspectives was key to both.

Joe Henry’s  extensive production credits include The River in Reverse by Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise by Bettye LaVette, and The Way of the World by Mose Allison just to name three of my faves.  In addition to the over three dozen albums he has produced, he’s issued thirteen Joe Henry albums as well.  The most recent being Invisible Hour from two years ago.  He’s written songs with Rosanne Cash and Madonna.  Atop the myriad skills that his resume implies, Bragg mentioned that Henry is also an outstanding arranger which helped elevate the renditions of these songs to something more personal than mere cover versions.

Henry noted the train and train song is part of our cultural mythology evoking loss and regret but also possibility.  Both artists stressed that Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad is not a nostalgia trip.  Bragg said that they wanted to make it an immersive investigation into the railroad song in American history but also to reconnect people to the enduring viability of the railroad.  

HERE is a link to a conversation (with performance) Billy Bragg and I had at WFUV in 2013.

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