Various Artists

Lonesome Whistle: An Anthology of American Railroad Songs

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Trains were a prominent image in American folk and popular music early in the 20th century, and there are countless 78s and 45s floating around out there with trains serving as the central metaphor. Trains represented motion, mobility, and power, and they moved goods from coast to coast, creating bustling crossroads and towns at each stop along the way. Trains also moved people, whisking lives away to better places or worse places, depending on one's luck and fortune. This wonderful four-disc, 100-track set collects some of those American train songs in an expansive litany of motion and metaphor. Most of the tracks are old blues or string band tunes, with contributions from Furry Lewis ("Kassie Jones"), Frank Hutchison ("Hell Bound Train"), Mississippi John Hurt ("Spike Driver Blues"), Charley Patton ("Pea Vine Blues"), Robert Johnson ("Love in Vain"), and others, but there are also a few modern tracks here, as well, from Elvis Presley ("Mystery Train"), Johnny Cash ("Folsom Prison Blues"), and Chuck Berry ("Down Bound Train"), giving this collection a powerful panoramic feel.

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