A preview of the Shine A Light project, looking at the history and songs of the American railway, Billy Bragg and Joe Henry have released a video of the recording of “The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore”. It’s part of a fascinating trip on the US railroad, in particular the route from Chicago to LA.  On the way, the duo look at the songs about the places that rose, and in some cases fell, with the railway.

This one is originally a Jean Ritchie song, although the Johnny Cash version is probably more famous. The Bragg & Henry version is much closer to the Ritchie original, with simple accompaniment, and with added background railway hubbub. It’s still a relevant message though, telling of the decline of local industry (coal mining).

“I never thought I’d live to love the coal dust”, they sing, but since the closure, the offices are overgrown with weeds, “How I wish the grass could turn to money” is the response of the miners.  Wishing for a replacement future and sense of purpose for this forgotten community in a modern world.

The video is the performance in Chicago’s Union station, the rest of the album is recorded similarly in stops and halts along the route to LA.

In case you missed it, there’s also a video for Midnight Special

And the whole project is on tour in November:

7th London, Union Chapel
8th London, Union Chapel
9th Canterbury,The Marlowe Theatre
10th Brighton, St.George’s Church
12th Portsmouth, New Theatre Royal
13th Coventry, Warwick Arts Centre
14th Guildford, G Live
15th Bury St Edmunds, The Apex
17th Nottingham, Playhouse
18th Manchester, The Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM)
19th Lincoln, The Engine Shed