Billy Bragg and Joe Henry explore songs of the railroad on new album
Billy Bragg and Joe Henry's new joint project, Shine A Light, is a collection of songs that explore the railroad. But instead of just heading into the studio to record, the two musicians actually trekked across the U.S. via train.
"The coming of the railway was a paradigm shift in people's existence a thousand times more than the Internet has done in our lifetimes," Bragg explains, of the significance of railways to his upbringing in Essex. "It was a huge imprint on our culture, whether it was here in North America or elsewhere in the world."
While there's a railroad theme that stretches across the songs they've selected to record — including Glen Campbell's "Gentle On My Mind" and the American folk song "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" (most well known as the song "In the Pines" performed by Nirvana in 1993) — Henry assures listeners that there's something deeper lying beneath the surface.
"Why do they last?" Henry asks, of these songs. "Because they're metaphoric. It means possibility, it means regret [...] the metaphor of the train is not a dead idea."