TOP 5: TRAIN SONGS


When RomeoSidVicious mentioned that we hadn’t done train songs yet I was as surprised as him. I mean, after drinking songs and murder ballads I bet train songs are the most prevalent in the country & blues world. So, today is as good a day as any to remedy this gaping hole in the Top 5 theme.

I tried to avoid the obvious selections so there would be some easy one’s for y’all:

Johnny Cash – Orange Blossom Special: Okay, this one is obvious but come one…it’s trains, it’s Florida. I had to list it.

Love and Rockets – Bound For Glory: One of my favorite bands that rarely gets mentioned on here performing one of my favorite songs by them.

Chris Knight – Speeding Train: I’ve said it one and I’ll say it now. If you don’t like Chris Knight then there is obviously a horrific flaw somewhere in your makeup.

The Cult – Medicine Train: There is definitely some hearing damage in me as a direct result of playing this song to the edge of the 6×9’s in my 1973 Dodge Colt’s abilities.

Quad City DJ’s – C’mon N’ Ride It: Simply put…the greatest train song in the history of the world so you know….If you feel like dancin’ well come on, it’s up to you. Move your arm up and down and make that choo choo sound.

LUCERO – 1372 OVERTON PARK SAMPLER

Any time a band whose reputation and philosophy were grounded firmly in DiY ideals makes a jump to a major label, there are bound to be concerns about selling out, dumbing down, cleaning up and all of those other concessions that aren’t tolerated among rabid fans and purists. Lucero’s transition from under-the-radar darling to major label act is no different, and while the band’s fans are dedicated enough to be tolerant of departures, they’re also passionate enough not to tolerate any slick bullshit in the name of appealing to a broader demographic (couFiveDollarCovergh). For the first time in their career, Lucero will have more than just raving critics and word of mouth behind them. They’ll have the lumbering – often fumbling – major label machine shoving their record down the listening public’s throat. This is great if the record’s as good as the material Ben Nichols and co. have been cranking out for the last decade, but what if the record sucks?

From the opening piano notes of “Smoke,” which kicks off the free six-song sampler available now with a pre-order of 1372 Overton Park, one thing is clear: Nichols’ affinity for anthemic classic rock is not going to be buried here; it’s right up front. “Smoke” sounds like Tom Petty aping Bruce Springsteen and, which Nichols’ rasp cutting through the pulsating piano, organ and guitars, it works. Springsteen is echoed in the second track, “Sounds of the City,” as well, with the swirling boardwalk organ and Memphis horns propelling Nichols’ tale of bad boys who “know when to push [their] luck.” Somebody’s been listening to Marah records. The addition of a horn section to Lucero’s sound shouldn’t be unexpected or unwelcome by anyone who’s witness the band’s maturation over their last few albums, as piano and organ were added in layers to flesh out Nichols’ bruised and bleak vacant lot anthems. However the band’s sound may have shifted, Nichols’ narrative remains constant, maybe even to a fault.

As “The Devil and Maggie Chascarillo” chugs along, sounding for all the world like a Thin Lizzy B-side, Nichols calls out for Love and Rockets and wrings his hands over punk rock girls and lonely saints. It’s a good tune but how long is Lucero’s audience going to be subjected to – and tolerate – Nichols’ bludgeoning of the “rock ‘n’ roll outcast” horse that was beaten dead about the time Green Day embarked on their first foray into rock operadom. Touching on familiar thematic elements is part of maintaining a dialogue with one’s audience – just ask Springsteen himself, nobody does it better – but that’s a far cry from writing the same song in six different keys, which is damn near what Nichols has done here. Luckily, he’s a good enough writer and compelling enough vocalist that the act isn’t tired — yet. But if, upon release, 1372 Overton Park turns out to be little more than a dozen recitations of “boy meets girl, boy fucks up, boy loseWeight Exercises girl, boy and girl find salvation in rock ‘n’ roll and live scrappily ever after,” Nichols is going to have a lot more to answer for than why Lucero incorporated horns into their tunes.

Until the full album is released, I’m more than willing to suspend judgment – God knows Lucero has earned it. And don’t mistake me, these are not bad songs, quite the opposite. 1372 Overton Park may well end up being the rare example of how to cross over without selling out but it may also show us a band struggling to find new ground while walking in place. For now, new Lucero tunes are better than no Lucero tunes, and these sings songs are good enough to keep expectations for 1372 Overton Park extremely high.

Lucero – Sounds of the City

Lucero’s Official Site, Lucero on myspace, Pre-Order 1372 Overton Park

DIRTY TRAINLOAD – RISING RUST

Dirty Trainload is the blues project of Southern Italy’s Bob Cillo, along with friends Marco Del Noce, Martino Palmisano and Alexander De Large joining in occasionally on harmonica, washboard, backing vocals and organs. They play a hybrid version of old-delta blues. One of the things that really sets these guys apart from the sounds of R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough or a John Lee Hooker is the percussion tracks.

Dirty Trainload eschews the use of live drums for loop stations and some old analog drum machines. The resulting sound ends up feeling like Love and Rockets if they would have made a blues album. An industrial, blues band if you will. While the combination might sound a little strange, trust me, it works as well as peanut butter and syrup (if you’ve never tried that I suggest you make a PB & syrup sandwich right now).

Here are some samples from their 2007 album, Rising Rust. Also, Dirty Trainload will be crossing the oceans to join us @ Deep Blues Festival ’09. Will you?

Dirty Trainload – Rising Rust
Dirty Trainload – Police Car
Dirty Trainload – Mad Man Blues

Dirty Trainload on myspace