Top 5: Train Songs

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It’s been a while since we had a top list and I figured train songs would be a great topic. So here are my Top 5 train songs:

  1. The Monkees – Last Train To Clarksville: This one has a lot of sentimental value for me and while it might not be one of the best train songs ever written it’s still one of my absolute favorites. A lot of train songs remind me of my grandpa, because reasons, but this one reminds of me of Saturdays with my mom and those memories are more than welcome.
  2. Jerry Jeff Walker – Some Go Home (The Train Song): Most folks would probably pick Desperadoes Waiting For A Train if they put a Jerry Jeff song of their list. This is a more of a deep cut about life in general and I think it’s a little more melancholy than Desperadoes and for that reason it’s a little higher on my list. Trust me, Desperadoes is on my list, it’s just not in the Top 5.
  3. Johnny Cash – Hey Porter: This is truly one that reminds of my Grandpa. From hearing him play it to the wooden train toys he made me by hand, that I failed to appreciate, while I was growing up. This is truly the stuff of fond memories and good times.
  4. Woody Guthrie – Hobo’s Lullaby: A true classic of the folk genre and beautifully performed song. I went back and grabbed Woody’s version but truly any cover I’ve heard has been amazing. I really like Woody’s take on this 1938 classic. The recording isn’t perfect but I think that adds to the experience.
  5. Avail – West Wye: As far as I know this is one of the only punk songs about trains and it’s the one that’s inspired the most wanderlust in me in recent years. The opening creates the perfect amount tension which drop you right in to Tim Barry’s vocals backed by the rest of Avail providing the perfect amount of drive to match the lyrics. I think that regardless of how life goes that this will always by my favorite train song.

There you have it, my top 5 train songs, so let’s have your thoughts on them as well as your top train songs…

TOP FIVE – COVERS RECORDS

topfivecoversrecords

Neil Young just released a new album called A Letter Home that he recorded in a phone booth, with the conceit that he’s playing songs from his childhood over the phone to his mother on the other end. It’s all covers, and most of them have been covered extensively already (Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Tim Hardin), so I wasn’t expecting much of a gut response to it. But it’s great! It sounds like the great Neil Young bootlegs of the 70’s like Citizen Kane Junior Blues; it made me want to play all the songs I used to like playing in small living rooms by myself.

The covers album is well-known to be a tricky thing–potentially a sign of songwriting stagnation or just a waste of time that offers nothing new. When they work, though, they can be wonderful sources of imagination and openness and history. Waylon Sings Ol’ Harlan, The Everly Brothers’ Roots, Willie Nelson’s To Lefty From Willie, Dolly Parton’s Sings My Favorite Songwriter, Porter Wagoner, and later, Bob Dylan’s World Gone Wrong and Good as I Been to You–they’re stunning records that lack nothing. Here are some other ones that have stood out to me over the years, in no particular order:

  1. Ronnie Hawkins–The Hawk in Winter (1976): The tracklist to this album has some overlap with the new Neil Young, Bob Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country,” Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe,” and Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain.” When Hawkins released his in ’76, it was more about covering some hot songwriters than when Young does it in ’14. In fact, there’s three Tim Hardin songs on this 11-track album. I love this album, despite how I just made it sound out of touch even in its own time. It’s the perfect sparsely luscious heartbreaking folk record from this period. Townes Van Zandt, Tim Hardin, Nick Drake, Nico–none of them escaped the 70s without some questionable studio flourishes stuck to some of their most incredible songs. And somehow this soft album from a hard-ass 40-year-old rockabilly legend gets those kinds of songs down without the fuss (there’s strings and stuff, but nothing too baroque) and in doing so offers an amazing source of brilliant contemporary songwriting.
    Early Morning Rain
    Reason to Believe
  2. Paul Baribeau & Ginger Alford–Darkness on the Edge of Your Town (2006): Paul Baribeau writes perfect songs but he is not prolific; Ginger Alford writes and guitars for Bloomington IN bands like Good Luck, Travelin’, and One Reason. This record comes out of their collaborative Springsteen covers tour. It’s all about fun here–two of the best songs are selected from late in Springsteen’s career, “Long Time Comin'” and “Into the Fire” (the latter is not as fun). The quintessential moment of the album occurs in the acoustic live version of “Born to Run” when the crowd mouth-guitars every electric guitar lick and the extended solo note-for-note. I’m really not sympathetic to criticism of Springsteen–I think his work is unassailable up to and including Tunnel of Love and then after that it’s still better than most things–but I can understand some disgrunts at his self-seriousness–this album is restores the levity (“I’m going to imply things about my penis,” Baribeau prefaces “Pink Cadillac”), community, and ecstasy to these songs while still wallowing in how devastating they really are. Where no one asks any questions or LOOKS TOO LONG IN YOUR FACE!
    06 Long Time Comin’
    14 Born To Run (Live)
  3. Give Me the Cure–D.C. Artists Cover The Cure (1994): The awesome title of this comp references DC band Fugazi’s song “Give Me the Cure,” but the bands here are obviously covering The Cure, and it’s all for an AIDS benefit to fund research to find a cure. Featuring amazing bands such as Edsel, Jawbox, Dismemberment Plan, Glo-Worm, My Life In Rain, and Ted Leo’s Chisel, and Peter Hayes from The High-Back Chairs. The standout for me is “Jumping Someone Else’s Train” by The Ropers. The fucking Ropers are the best and that doesn’t get talked about enough. This is a great album because it collects a good chunk of important DC bands of the time and it gets into different areas of The Cure’s discography–it drags up a lot of their best early singles, but doesn’t limit itself to the obvious choices from The Cure’s punkier early period which would’ve been the easiest songs to translate. Mainly, go check out The Ropers.
    Jumping Someone Else’s Train
    Six Different Ways
  4. Harry Nilsson–Nilsson Does Newman (1970): Brilliant, super-layered studio mastery. Nilsson harmonizing with Nilsson accompanied by Randy Newman, the honored songwriter himself, on piano. This is early in both Nilsson’s and Newman’s careers but the tribute is loving, earnest, and beautifully executed. The version of “Living Without You” from this album gets my vote for Most Beautiful Sounds Ever Made. If you’ve been averse to Newman’s genius songwriting because you can’t get down with his voice, then I suspect it’s because you’ve only heard his Disney songs, and you should check out his 70s albums, but if that still is keeping you at a distance, come at it through this album and Nilsson’s unmatched voice.
    caroline
    living without you
  5. The Crust Brothers–Marquee Mark (1998): The Crust Brothers were meant for only a few shows, including a benefit show for the Washington Wilderness Coalition in Seattle that was recorded for this album. The band was actually STEPHEN MALKMUS from Pavement and Tim, Andy, and Michael from SILKWORM. They all trade off vocals on a set of covers that largely samples Dylan & The Band’s Basement Tapes, but also includes The Rolling Stones, Skynyrd, Marvin Gaye, and an amazing version of The Byrds/Gene Clark’s “Feel A Whole Lot Better.” The truth is I found out about Malkmus’ work because he was on the soundtrack to the Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There; I went backwards through his work and smacked into this, a love letter to The Basement Tapes, which was an album I was obsessed with in high school but that nobody else beside Peter Vinney and Greil Marcus had ever seemed to have heard. This album means a lot to me as an intersection between my high school folkie/classic rock self and my college rock self. It made me feel really fucking cool to hear these musicians share some love for the stuff I thought I was lame for liking. But it stands up in any context as a must-hear. Malkmus and Andy Cohen are two “incendiary” guitarists–they kill on stage together. One of my favorite live records, as well.
    Bessie Smith
    Feel a Whole Lot Better

(Wolf beat me to the punch on sharing–>) That much-anticipated (announced in 2012) Uncle Tupelo tribute album featuring Drag the River, Have Gun, Two Cow, and Empty Orchestra seems to be making progress recently and might even be out in the summer. Listen to Two Cow’s cover of Tweedy’s “We’ve Been Had.”

Real quick: Top Five Artists that Deserve a(nother) Tribute Album

  1. ALL
  2. Kathleen Hanna
  3. Phil Ochs
  4. Ferron
  5. Sticks & Stones

Let me know what tributes and covers you like best and who you think needs a revisiting. Thought of another one: Grant Lee Phillips’ Nineteeneighties–anybody know that one? Ok, now you go!

TOP FIVE – FOLKS YOU WISH WERE STILL DOING STUFF

commongrounds

Back in the day, these guys would play every weekend, every festival, and they kicked such ass. Then they, like, got lives or something. Come back! Make more things for me!

5. Anchor Arms – from the outside they may not have seemed so distinguished from any Gainesville late-aughts beardpunk band, but their reign of terror coincided with the years I left campus for downtown and started going to shows. I got to see them as a 3-piece, a 4-piece, and a 5-piece, I think, and it was like getting to sit in on a band-dynamics class. I learned a lot about how to watch live music from Anchor Arms. I saw their last show and it was the first time that I realized that there was such a thing as last shows—that bands were real things with beginnings and ends. But surprise! They just released a new free album this January! I just found out about that right now.

Poison Arrows

4. Liza Kate – she recently had an acting role in the movie The Comedy staring Tim Heidecker, but before that she was part of Josh Small and Tim Barry’s Richmond scene. She released her album Don’t Let the Dogs in 2009 and has a mini-live-album from 2010 up on her bandcamp, but was (as far as I know) last heard guesting on Josh Small’s 2010 album Juke. Her strumming was mellow and her voice not overly dramatic, but she could make a room shut up and listen, she made devastation very appealing.

O Sally!

3. Mike Hale – how many people have you seen Austin Lucas harmonize with? Probably enough to start their own township. But nobody paired quite like Austin Lucas and Mike Hale. Hale’s deep gravelly voice, guitar submerged in minor chords, and his confessional lyrics made him one of the saddest songwriters I’ve ever seen. I used to think he was way too sad-sack, but looking back I think he had a really brave and interesting project going. I would love the chance to see him and Austin sing together again. A download of Hale’s solo album is still available for free from Suburban Home.

Lives Like Mine (live w/ Austin Lucas)

2. Sarah Dougher – I never saw Sarah Dougher play live, but her albums Day One (1999), The Walls Ablaze (2000), and The Bluff (2001) are among my favorites. Working from Portland, she made literate, punk-inspired, jangly-but-severe, pop songs. Since those albums, she’s gone on to be a full-on academic–teaching at Portland State, working with girls rock camps, publishing about feminist issues in music, even traveling to Bahrain as a guest of the US Embassy to teach music to Bahraini girls. Her latest musical projects have been a song-suite based around the poems of the late Leslie Scalapino, a soundtrack to a local production of The Orestes by Euripides, and a concept album about The Odyssey called Harpers Arrow. She’s a hero. Whenever I think of her, it inspires me to not give up on making an academic and artistic life out of the subjects that I care about. It can be done. But I like pop songs a lot and would love another batch.

The Ground Below

1. Christina Wagner – the only words I’ve probably ever said to Christina Wagner were “do you have an album yet?” and that makes me feel like a jerk. I said them often. But her songs are great and I thought the way the world works is that there has to be an album. Chris Wollard was going to produce it at one point. Her shows are always winners–amazing murder ballads, gorgeous Johnny Cash covers, and some badass spanish-guitar-like finger-picking. She still plays shows, so it’s not like she disappeared, but she’s on this list because I really want that album. Last I’ve heard, she opened her own cafe in Jacksonville, so I bet that place is the best. If anybody has any Christina Wagner demos or recordings, please send them my way. She had a tour EP with Austin Lucas, right?

a full set of Christina Wagner

Who do you wish was still working on the reg?

TOP FIVE — SONGS ABOUT FOOD

Or at least tangentially about food. And like all good lists this one goes, in alphabetical order, to 11.
  1. The Band – “Home Cookin'” from A Musical History. A 1976 outtake, this is Rick Danko near his vulnerable best.
  2. Carolyn Mark & the New Best Friends – “Yanksgiving” from The Pros and Cons of Collaboration. Cooking to this song is tons of fun, but also guaranteed to make you wish that you were at Carolyn Mark’s party instead.
  3. Descendents – “Weinerschnitzel” from Fat EP. Good advice re: bull sperm.
  4. Guy Clark – “Texas Cookin'” from Texas Cookin’. He also wrote “Home Grown Tomatoes,” which is going to be the anthem of my forthcoming Summer of the Caprese Salad.
  5. John Mellencamp – “Hot Dogs and Hamburgers” from The Lonesome Jubilee. The American version of Leatherface’s “Baked Potato” (see below).
  6. Leatherface – “Baked Potato” from Mush. The British version of John Mellencamp’s “Hot Dogs and Hamburgers” (see above).
  7. Parallel 5th – “Carrots and Peas” from The Living Room Compilation. They were a Rhode Island new wave band that hardly mattered, but this song is funny and takes the place of The Beach Boys’ “Vegetables” which is on every other list of best food songs on the interwebs.
  8. Patty Griffin – “Making Pies” from 1000 Kisses. This is the best written song on this list. And Guy Clark is on this list. Good god, this song.
  9. Robert Earl Keen & Lyle Lovett – “Front Porch Song” from Keen’s No Kinda Dancer and Lovett’s Lyle Lovett. In addition to the much acknowledged steaming greasy plates of enchiladas, also consider the pimento cheese sandwiches that inspired the fourth verse.
  10. Steve Goodman – “The Vegetable Song” from Somebody Else’s Troubles. Most underrated songwriter on this list. And Guy Clark is on this list.
  11. Tom Waits – “Eggs and Sausage (in a Cadillac with Susan Michelson)” from Nighthawks at the Diner. *rhythmic snap*

We’re well aware that this site takes its name from a song on an album called Pizza Deliverance and offers sporadic taco recipes, and know you know that I, personally, am always starving. What do y’all got in the pantry? Food songs! Deliver them.

NINEBULLETS READERS CHOICE AWARDS: TOP 5

Well. I asked. Y’all listed and I tallied. The result is the Top 5 of the first 1/2 of 2012 as selected by the readership. Thanks for voting! In the end, Lee Bains simply ran away from the crowd getting twice as many votes as any other album.

Here’s the list:

5. Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now
2 (tie). Truckstop Darlin’ – Hope And The Heart It Breaks
2 (tie). Lucero- Women & Work
2 (tie). Arliss Nancy- Simple Machine
1. Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires- The Is A Bomb in Gilead

AUTOPSY'S TOP 5 OF THE FIRST 1/2 OF 2012 (today):

The first half of 2012 has been pretty fucking awesome and the last 1/2 is shaping up to match (if not best) it’s opening mate. Real talk: If American Aquarium’s new album were available the whole list would have changed. That should get all y’all hot and bothered for what’s coming on the ass end of y2k v.12. I know I am. All of that said, the front end of the year had a few albums that were just, to put it plain and simple, better than the rest. In my opinion, these are those albums:

5. Justin Townes Earle – Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now

The title is longer than the album but what it (the album) lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. Perfect for long drives alone, this album really shows Justin coming into his own post rehab.

Justin Townes Earle – Am I That Lonely Tonight?

2 (tie). The Great Unknowns – Homefront

Becky Warren and Co. emerge from the ether some 8 years after their debut album with one of the most honest and painful albums of the year. Oh yeah, the songs are fucking awesome too. Homefront isn’t a breakup album, it’s a reflection album. It’s an album that anyone who’s lost something dear to them can find common ground with.

The Great Unknowns – Homefront

2 (tie). Arliss Nancy – Simple Machines

If you like that punky, rocky, Southerny rock and roll thing, then meet Arliss Nancy, they’re one of your new favorite bands. Simple Machines is an album I’ll talk about again come year end lists. Simple Machines is an album I’ll still be listening to years from now.

Arliss Nancy – Failure

2 (tie). Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires – There Is A Bomb In Gilead

If we were giving out awards for “best album to make woopie with your woman to in the first half of 2012” Lee Bains and Co. would have walked away with the award before anyone else even showed up for the ceremony. There Is A Bomb In Gilead is everything The Drive-By Truckers have been trying to become since Jason left/was kicked out of the band.

Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires – Righteous, Ragged Songs

1. McDougall – A Few Towns More

Scott McDougall has won the inside track to the best album of the year with “words to hold on to.” A Few More Towns greets you with banjo, growls, footstomps and declarations and leaves you thinking Scott McDougall might be the perfect mixture of Possessed By Paul James and Tim Barry.

McDougall – Ready, Begin

TOP 5: DEAD MUSICIANS YOU WANNA SEE GET THE HOLGRAM TREATMENT

Seeing all the chatter about the Tupac hologram performance got me to thinking. Who could they hologram that I’d go see? Which then got me to thinking, who would y’all pay to see via hologram? Here are mine (not in any specific order):

5. Waylon Jennings: I never saw him but I’d go see a Waylongram.
4. Hank Williams: Died before my time.
3. Jimi Hendrix: Drop acid before this show and shit might get freaky.
2. Lane Stayley: I was always a big Alice In Chains fan and this could be fun.
1. Tupac: I ain’t lying. I’d drop cash right now to see a full show of that video.

Remember laser light shows? Could hologram shows become the new laser light shows? Does anyone else also find it just a smidge creepy?

GIMME THREE:

It’s been a while since we had a fun little crowd participation thread and when I saw this question run across my Facebook wall I decided I’d give it a shot here.

So: If you could only listen to the discography of 3 artists/bands for the remainder of your life. Who would they be?

Me: Merle Haggard, The Beastie Boys and The Drive-By Truckers up through The Dirty South.

You?

TOP FIVE: ARTISTS YOU'VE ONLY SEEN ONCE

I’ve been lucky enough to see Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Willie Nelson twice each. Exactly how lucky is that? I don’t know. They’ve all toured non-stop, but Destination Florida is always up in the air. There are some artists, though, that I’m thankful I’ve had the chance to see just the once, and that one show encompasses everything I hold dear about live music: the surprise, the intimacy, the times when you get so absorbed in the band, deciphering drumbeats and riding pedal steel riffs, that you finally stop worrying about people judging both of your dance moves. Perfect, untouchable nights, in the moment and in the memory. But at the same time, I’m always lustful for an encore show. These are the best one night stands I can think of:

5) Alejandro Escovedo — I saw the Austin TX stalwart in Austin the one weekend I’d happened to be visiting my sister and her new daughter. The best show I’ve ever seen with a full stable of background singers. He’s the man, total professional. Gun. Slinger.

Alejandro Escovedo – Gravity Falling/Down Again/Street Hassle

4) Neil Young — Duh. It was the most recent tour, for Le Noise. He’s been spooky on his own, acoustically, and he’s been spooky with Crazy Horse, but this tour was him being spooky all on his lonesome, electrically. Neil and his echoes, which is what he’s been all along anyway. Allan Toussaint opened. Nothing like the smell of weed wafting through the Hard Rock Casino. Rock on, sexagenarians.

Neil Young – Sedan Delivery

3) Ruby Coast — 3pm on a Friday, the very first show of the very first Harvest of Hope Festival in Elkton. Besides me, the only people there seemed to be the folks from the To Write Love on Her Arms booth trying to give me stickers. Ruby Coast played great songs, coming out of nowhere, in the middle of a fairgrounds in the middle of nowhere. It reminded me that afternoons can be fun. There are others whom I’ve only seen at Festivals like this: Glossary, Billy Bragg, The National, Hot New Mexicans, Avail. But, Ruby Coast was the show that made me felt like I’d earned it. They were all in high school at the time.

Ruby Coast – Liza Liza

2) The Pack A.D. — Not to be too incestuous about it, but the only time I had a chance to see Canadian duo The Pack A.D. was at the NineBullets 4th Anniversary Party. And they blew my face off. And I don’t even miss my face. Just guitar by Becky Black and drums by Maya Miller. It was all sweaty screaming hammering effort. Lots of interaction between Black and Miller, jumping on the drum kit, windmills. Not unlike a Two Cow Garage show. They put everything they had into a show where they were the oddball on the bill. Plus, Miller was willing to humor me a conversation about Star Wars and Sleater-Kinney afterwards. (By the way, the Pack has a new album on the way.)

The Pack A.D. – B.C. Is On Fire

1) Jonathan Richman — Slow as I am, I found out about Jonathan Richman coincidentally one week before he came to town because he was mentioned in Carolyn Mark’s years-old cookbook (she spelled his name Jonathan Richmond), from which I was preparing a delicious whiskey cake. Going into the show I knew only one song, “Dancing at the Lesbian Bar,” so everything was new to me. Richman had the whole bill to himself that night, and he played two sets, just him and his drummer Tommy Larkins. As each song passed I couldn’t believe how tight every lyric was, how complete of a grasp he had over his words, every one was so exact and so rightly chosen. I didn’t know lyricists were capable of that precision. The only people who even come close are Leonard Cohen, David Berman, Branden Barnett, and Franz Nicolay. What I needed was not so much to be loved, as to love, Richman sang. It was the first time I’d heard that, but it’s simple and true enough that it beats with familiarity. Songs he sang in Spanish, French, and Italian all hit as heavy. He sang about Vermeer and Picaso and Van Gogh and driving through suburbia at night out of boredom. He knows how to eschew all the false angles of approaching an emotion and doesn’t settle for a lyric until he finds the absolute core of what he’s trying to say. It felt like I was being serenaded, and I’d never been serenaded, so I wasn’t sure if that’s what it felt like, but I didn’t care. Favorite line of the night: We don’t want the past, we want the moment, just like bread, it’s gotta be fresh, even a day old is getting to be…too much.

Jonathan Richman – Since She Started To Ride