In March 2016 singer songwriter, political activist, music historian and Britain’s most authentic American Billy Bragg and his three time grammy winning producer and singer-songwriter companion, Joe Henry, boarded a Los Angeles-bound train at Chicago’s Union Station. Thus began a 2,728 mile long railroad journey wherein the two recorded songs for their new album Shine a Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad while the train would pause to pick up passengers at various stops across the states.
Drawing inspiration from the classic environment which gave birth to the great american rock’n’roll era, the two would hop off at the wayside when their train stopped and record their tracks in train station waiting rooms or right there on the platform awaiting their next journey. Recording at St Louis, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Alpine TX, El Paso and Tuscan over a 65 hour journey, the duo eventually pulled into Los Angeles at 4:30am, recording their final song in Union Station.
Says Billy: “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.”
The resulting album ‘Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad’ presents the perfectly matched voices of Bragg and Henry fused with the varied atmospheres of the environments in which they recorded—from the close proximity of soft-furnished sleeping cars to the cathedral-like ambience of historic railway stations.
Between them, the two have accrued a number of accolades, including three Grammys, a number one hit single, having a street named after one of them, appearing onstage at Wembley stadium and being the subject of a South Bank Show.
Billy has worked with a range of notable artists such as T Bone Burnett and Daniel Lanois to Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman and Bill Frisell. Henry has also worked with numerous musicians, including Elvis Costello, Hugh Laurie and Solomon Burke. More recently, Henry has worked with the late Allen Toussaint, a recording session that resulted in an album American Tunes which will be released later this year.
Their new album Shine A Light was released on Cooking Vinyl on 23rd September and features covers of American classics originally recorded by Hank Williams, Lead Belly, The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Glen Campbell, Gordon Lightfoot & More.
Says Joe: “The emergence of the railroad in America boasted of our might and sprawling enormity, yet signalled a deep desire for close community, connectivity. The songs that grew out of and alongside this innovation remain to tell this story of collective national character.”
Having returned from across the pond, the duo will tour the UK together later this year, a tour which will see the two exchange texan towns for english cities, including a local performance at the New Royal Theatre in Portsmouth. The two will be performing songs from the new album ‘Shine A Light’ and more. Full tour details are as follows:
07-Nov-16 Islington, London Union Chapel
08-Nov-16 Islington, London Union Chapel
09-Nov -16 Canterbury, Kent The Marlowe Theatre
10-Nov- 16 Kemp Town, British St. George’s Church
12-Nov -16 Portsmouth, Hampshire New Theatre Royal
13-Nov -16 Coventry Warwick Arts Centre
14-Nov -16 Guilford, Surrey G Live
15-Nov- 16 Bury Saint Edmunds The Apex
17-Nov- 16 Nottingham Nottingham Playhouse
18-Nov-16 Manchester, The Royal Northern College of Music
19-Nov-16 Brayford Pool, Lincoln The Engine Shed
Mon 16 Jan 2017 London Union Chapel
Tue 17 Jan 2017 Bristol St George’s
Wed 18 Jan 2017 Exeter Corn Exchange
Fri 20 Jan 2017 Salisbury City Hall
Sat 21 Jan 2017 Buxton Opera House
Sun 22 Jan 2017 Norwich Open
Tue 24 Jan 2017 York Grand Opera House
Wed 25 Jan 2017 Whitley Bay Playhouse
Thu 26 Jan 2017 Glasgow Old Fruitmarket (Celtic Connections)
Sat 28 Jan 2017 Dublin St Patrick’s Cathedral
Sun 29 Jan 2017 Belfast Ulster Hall
Mon 30 Jan 2017 Letterkenny Co. Donegal An Grianan Theatre
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