Jody Kruskal | Train on the Island

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Train on the Island

by Jody Kruskal

Songs and Tunes from the Days of Rail by Jody Kruskal and Friends, American Roots Music, Country Blues, Old-Time and Folk featuring the Chromatic Autoharp and Anglo Concertina
Genre: Country: Traditional Country
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Freight Train Blues
3:43 $0.99
2. Train on the Island (feat. Drew Smith)
4:17 $0.99
3. Railroad Through the Rocky Mountains (feat. Cindy Harris)
3:21 $0.99
4. Reuben’s Train
4:27 $0.99
5. Cannonball Blues
3:23 $0.99
6. I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
5:03 $0.99
7. Walk on Boy
4:14 $0.99
8. All Night Long (feat. Jim Wood)
4:16 $0.99
9. Mr. Engineer
4:51 $0.99
10. L and N Rag
3:57 $0.99
11. Morningtown Ride
3:33 $0.99
12. Pick and Shovel
4:17 $0.99
13. Jenny on the Railroad
2:41 $0.99
14. City of New Orleans
4:38 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
This collection of old American railroad songs and tunes explores the stories of those who built, ran and rode the the rails from the boom time of American expansion in the mid-1800s to the decline of rail transport in the 20th century.

As if by magic, once you step aboard a train, you are transported at high speed to another land with a soundtrack of the steel rails and the lonesome call of the steam whistle. Hoboes, adventurers, laborers and lovers are tempted by the sound “to hop that freight and ride” as they look for a better life or try to escape loneliness, regret and heartache. In these songs, they are likely to find bitter disappointment, blood, toil and deadly wrecks... or perhaps, simply the dawning of a beautiful new day.

Autoharp and Anglo concertina both have an antique sound that complements these songs and tunes from another age.

1. Freight Train Blues (3:43)
When I first heard this song I knew I wanted to sing it too. The recording that made me fall in love was yodeled by Richard O Hamilton from West Virginia in 1941, when he recorded it for folk song collectors Anne and Frank Warner. Hamilton likely got it from a record by Roy Acuff (1936) or Hank Williams (1939). The song was written by traditional music promoter John Lair in 1935 and has been recorded by many, including Bob Dylan on his first album, in 1962.

2. Train on the Island (4:17)
Uncle Norman Edmonds, Crockett Ward and JP Nestor all recorded this in 1927 as a fast breakdown. Fiddler Luther Davis from Galax, Virginia, was in his 90s when he recorded an elegant and slower instrumental version in 1986. Bruce Molsky was perhaps the first to turn this old-time classic into a ballad with fancy chords. I’ve slowed it down further for maximum poignancy. Autoharp master Drew Smith joins me here for this song of true love, thwarted by illness and helpless despair.

3. Railroad Through the Rocky Mountains (3:20)
Kentucky fiddler Jim Bowles recorded this old-time tune in 1959. Award-winning autoharpist Cindy Harris joins me here, along with Mark Dann on bass and my tune buddies: Nick Stillman on fiddle and Indiana Hoover on guitar.

4. Reuben’s Train ( 4:27)
An old-time and bluegrass classic first recorded by Fiddlin' John Carson in 1924. By then, the song had been around for quite a while and had acquired many more verses than the ones I’m singing here.

5. Cannonball Blues (3:24)
This song of grief and departure was recorded by the Carter Family in the 1930s. It is likely based on a traditional song, known from the singing of Charlie Poole (1926), titled “The Whitehouse Blues” describing President William McKinley’s funeral train that famously ran “from Buffalo to Washington.”

6. I’ve Been Working on the Railroad (5:03)
This chestnut is one of the quintessential US folks songs. It seems to be a pastiche of three 19th-century songs including minstrel, English and collegiate singing. Today, it survives as a children’s camp song. With its unrelated sections and long form, it is both unique and widely known in American culture. It’s fun to sing this on a long ride with your friends, who are all sure to know it. I hope that my version here captures the silliness and spontaneity that puts this song among the great classics of the US folk world. Spiff Wiegand joins me here on guitar.

7. Walk on Boy (4:14)
I learned this from the singing of Brooklyn’s own Bob Jones. Mel Tillis and Wayne Walker wrote this gem. Doc Watson recorded it in 1966.

8. All Night Long (4:16)
AKA, The Richmond Blues. When I first heard the Burnett and Rutherford recording from 1928, I knew that this was a song I needed to sing. Jim Wood recorded most of this in his Nashville studio and joins me on fiddle, mandolin, guitar and bass.

9. Mr. Engineer (4:51)
Bluegrass legend Jimmy Martin wrote this classic train song with Paul Williams and recorded it back in 1966 with the Sunny Mountain Boys. I’m joined here by Owen Morrison on guitar.

10. L&N Rag (3:57)
A few years back, I learned this fine C tune from the playing of Palmer Loux with her Run of the Mill String Band in residence at the Lake Genero Old-Time Gathering (“Fiddling Bear”). The L&N Rag was recorded back in the 1930s by Alex Hood & His Railroad Boys, from the town of Corbin, Kentucky.

11. Morningtown Ride (3:34)
Social activist and singer Malvina Reynolds wrote this fine song in 1957. It was an international hit for The Seekers in 1964. At Pinewoods Camp Family Week 2017, this was my pick for the Pied Piper song. I sang the children to their cabins playing the autoharp on rugged camp paths in the dark. What an adventure!

12. Pick and Shovel (4:18)
When I moved to New York City in the early 1980s, I fell in with fiddler Michael Gorin. He taught me lots of tunes including this delightfully gruesome song that he learned from his university days in Binghamton, NY. The lyrics were published in The Hobo’s Hornbook (1930), collected by George Milburn from the singing of David Kaplan, Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas.

13. Jenny on the Railroad (2:42)
Long ago, I thrilled to the old-time Ithaca sound of the Horseflies playing this driving tune. Fiddler Nick Stillman tells me that a Jenny is a female donkey, but what she’s doing on the tracks is unknown.

14. City of New Orleans (4:38)
Chicago songster Steve Goodman wrote this and performed it for Arlo Guthrie, who made it into a big hit in 1972. It struck such a nerve that it went on to be covered by many, including Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. This song is perfect for the autoharp, with an abundance of those cherished “Wow” chords.

Jody Kruskal - vocals, autoharp, Anglo concertina, guitar, kora, penny whistle, slide didge and bells.
Mark Dann - bass (3, 7, 9, 10, 13)
Jim Wood - fiddle, mandolin, guitar, bass (8)
Nick Stillman - fiddle (3, 10, 13)
Indiana Hoover - guitar (3, 10, 13)
Owen Morrison - guitar (9)
Spiff Wiegand - guitar (6)
Cindy Harris - autoharp (3)
Drew Smith - autoharp (2)

Mix: Jody Kruskal and Mark Dann Studios.
Cover Art: “Transient” by Bruno Werneck.
Autoharp consultants: Cindy Harris, Drew Smith
© 2018 copyright Jody Kruskal all rights reserved, ASCAP

This project was made possible by a generous grant from the Mountain Laurel Autoharp Gathering Cohen/Grappel Recording Endowment.



to write a review

Dick LaVine

"Train On The Island" is a collection of vintage songs that is sure to transport you into a different time (maybe a better time) played by a group of extraordinary musicians led by the master of the Anglo Concertina and Chromatic Autoharp, the one and only Jody Kruskal.

For the price of a movie, we are offered the opportunity to make a unique musical journey whenever we wish and to somehow feel safer and stronger for the experience.

Do get this CD!