Billy Bragg & Joe Henry

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry

England | US


In March 2016, singers Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, guitars in hand, boarded the Los Angeles-bound Texas Eagle at Chicago’s Union Station. Bragg, the feisty, left-wing activist punk-folk singer and Henry, acclaimed singer-songwriter and Grammy-winning producer were hoping to reconnect with the culture of American railroad travel and the songs it inspired. Winding along 2,728 miles of track, the pair recorded songs while the train paused to pick up passengers.

In waiting rooms and at the track side in St Louis, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Alpine TX, El Paso and Tucson they hurriedly set up their recording equipment, performing classic railroad songs while keeping one eye on the train, bounding back aboard just before pulling out for the next town. They recorded songs by Hank Williams, Lead Belly, The Carter Family. and Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain. Four days on, they pulled into LA at 4:30am, and recorded their final song in Union Station at dawn.

The resulting album, Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad takes listeners along on that journey with a collection that also speaks of hardship and struggle and hope. Two different voices, styles and personalities meld here like a finely prepared feast, the songs beautifully realized both on record – and now too on stage.