Americana Railroad is one of those compilations that you cannot help but sit up and take notice of; certainly if you’re like me – (no surprise) life-long lover of anything that has to do with trains and pure, American songs celebrating the history of the rails, June 17th. While it was originally released as a limited-edition vinyl LP for Record Store Day in November, 2021, the CD version will be out on Friday, June 17th, via Renew/BMG.
The collection includes songs by Graham Nash, Gene Clark and Jimmie Rodgers as well as traditional songs and some lesser-known Americana music. The compilation features a wide selection of performers including John Fogerty, Dave Alvin, Alice Howe, and Stephen McCarthy. There are two versions of Junior Parker’s masterstroke “Mystery Train” (yes, the same one recorded so magnificently by Elvis) from two different rockabilly artists, Rocky Burnette (yes, son of Johnny and early ’80’s hitmaker) and James Intveld; John York (of The Byrds and The Sir Douglas Quintet!) doing John Stewart’s “Runaway Train” (yes,THAT John Stewart; you know… “Daydream Believer”, etc.). Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s traditional “This Train” is delivered masterfully by the always-brilliant Peter Case, and Dave Alvin offers up “Southwest Chief”, which is an original, yet has that natural, vintage feel. There is something about all of these songs – and the rest on the CD – they are so richly cinematic and emotionally gripping. It is impossible to listen to these songs without instantly closing your eyes and imagining yourself riding the rails in search of everything.
Producer/performer Carla Olson made this statement in a recent interview, which is a perfect summary: “Growing up in Austin, Texas during the 1950’s, 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.”
For someone like me, it’s almost like a return to childhood – the simplicity of trains and the possibilities of what may like ahead once you’re on your way and the sensibility and purity of Americana. Simply put, this compilation is a labor of love that must not be overlooked. It’s as important a collection as it is a joy to listen to.
Americana Railroad is currently available.