To give you a backstory on these two legendary storytellers, they’ve teamed up to record Shine A Light: Field Recordings from The Great American Railroad (Cooking Vinyl). The songs were recorded railroad-themed songs at various points in their 2,728 miles journey across America, starting at the Chicago’s Union Station.
The two shared a love for the history of America and noted that the railroads really unified the country by connecting cities. To hear a railroad song was to actually hear history.
Every song on this album and what they played on their set had a special story and meaning to the two musicians. Hearing the two talk about their song choices, it was like hearing two very old and close friends get very excited about their mutual passion of history and music.
For American Joe Henry (who’s name is similar to John Henry the “Steel Driving Man”), we can see why he would love recording these railroad songs, but for Englishman Billy Bragg, we’re somewhat a little confused. Bragg explained, “Growing up in the UK, I’d always been aware of this tradition but when I traveled to the US, I was surprised to find how few people look to the railroad as a means of transport. 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. Traveling on the train and recording the songs as we went allowed us to both visit places that were important 125 years ago when the lines were laid, but to also explore the viability of the railroad as a means of transport in the 21st century.”
The show was divided in four parts: The first section featured both Billy & Joe playing “Shine a Light” songs. The second part is a five-song solo set by Joe Henry. He would play a few of his songs, as you can see from the setlist, starting with ‘Trampoline’.
After the brief intermission, we’re treated to a Billy Bragg solo set. Bragg is known for his trademark protest songs, and demonstrated why he is simply one of the greatest songwriters in the world.
The last part of their show featured both Billy & Joe playing more “Shine a Light” songs.... saving John Hartford’s ‘Gentle on My Mind’ and Woody Guthrie’s ‘Ramblin’ Round’ for the double-song encore.
Billy Bragg and Joe Henry’s “Shine a Light” USA tour continues to San Francisco tomorrow and will end in Los Angeles on October 25th. The two will continue the tour in London in early November.
Remaining Tour Dates
10/25/16 Los Angeles, CA Downtown Palace
11/07/16 London, Union Chapel
11/08/16 London, Union Chapel
11/09/16 Canterbury Marlowe Theatre
11/10/16 Brighton St.George's Church
11/12/16 Portsmouth New Theatre Royal
11/13/16 Coventry Warwick Arts Centre
11/14/16 Guildford G Live
11/15/16 Bury St Edmunds The Apex
11/17/16 Nottingham Playhouse
11/18/16 Manchester, Royal Northern
11/19/16 Lincoln The Engine Shed
Billy Bragg & Joe Henry at Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis (17 October 2016)