Various Artists

Steel Rails: Classic Railroad Songs, Vol. 1

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As long as railroads have existed, there have been songs sung about them, whether to praise their wonders, tell stories, or condemn them as tools of evil. Steel Rails and its companion volume, Mystery Train, set out to sample this particular vein of American song, offering up versions of "Wabash Cannonball" and "The Orange Blossom Special" (an amusing live version from the Johnson Mountain Boys) alongside twelve other songs that might not be quite as familiar as those two. A mixture of well-known artists and fairly new names is also a plus for the package -- Kieran Kane, slipped in between Jimmie Rodgers and Alison Krauss, holds his own with a moody take on Hank Williams' "Ramblin' Man." Meanwhile, it's no accident that much of the music here is country, western or bluegrass -- by the time rock & roll came along, fast cars were the order of the day, not cannonballing trains.

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