Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Rhythm of the Rails

There is something about the sounds of a train. The rhythmic beat of the ties, the lonesome cry of a whistle, these are sounds that stir one deep within and evoke strong emotions. Many musicians have been stirred by these sounds and tried to emulate them.

Bukka White introduced me to this musical interpretation of everyday sounds when I attended a workshop he gave in the early 1970s. As he played his classic The Panama Limited he not only kept the rhythm of the train, but embellished the movements of the old woman whom is the subject of the song. He went as far as to play his old National Tri-Cone bottle neck style while the “old soul” was standing or walking and lap style when she took her seat on the train. The total effect was simply stunning!

I have a cassette tape that I recorded at that workshop; unfortunately I have not been able to find it for several years. I’m sure it is safe in a box somewhere; I just wish I knew where. The effect must have been something he added after he had recorded the song, for it doesn’t appear on any of his released recordings of The Panama Limited.

Frank Hutchison - C&O Excursion.mp3

Roane County Ramblers - Southern No. 111.mp3

Bukka White - The Panama Limited.mp3


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