Classic Railroad Songs

Various Artists

As a child, I loved trains and although living a block from the tracks has diluted that love somewhat, I still loves me a good train song. Imagine my glee when I picked up Classic Railroad Songs, a collection of 27 train songs by more than a dozen different artists bookended by the sounds of a real, honest-to-god steam engine. Smithsonian Folkways also includes with the music a 33-page booklet filled with historic photographs and information on the sessions and origins of each song. The featured artists range from legends such as Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie to relatively unknown folkies like Furry Lewis and Rosalie Sorrels. In addition to the obvious choices like “Midnight Special,” “Wreck of the Old 97” and “Wabash Cannonball,” the set also features more obscure tracks such as “Zack, the Mormon Engineer” and “Way Out in Idaho”—in fact, 21 of the tracks have never been released on CD before. Anyone with more than a passing interest in American music would do well to the flag this down.