Sunday, June 7, 2015

train a comin'

Steve Earle came back from oblivion with the mercenary mystery of this stripped down hometown blues.   He had found early success with the rock country sound of his debut Guitar Town in 1986; but struggled to find acceptance as he moved closer to rock on Exit 0  and  Copperhead Road. By the time he released The Hard Way in 1990, he had been through several marriages and had legal problems over his increasingly raucous behavior.  MCA dropped him from the label after he delivered an album that they refused to release.  In 1994, after being arrested for possession of heroin, he was sentenced to a year in jail, which he served in rehab.   

Earle would reveal:   "At forty it becomes clear - especially if you get to be forty the way I did, defying gravity - that what's important is your life and your wife and your kids.  There is an edge in things you do when you're younger, and you think it's life or death.  But if you survive long enough, artistically and otherwise, it suddenly dawns on you one day that you didn't have to go through maybe all the shit that you went through, but there ain't nobody in the world that could have told you that when it was goin' on.  It's just that simple."

After his release, he signed with Winter Harvest Records and recorded 'Train A Comin'' in Nashville over the course of five days.  The sessions featured Steve Earle on guitar, high string guitar, 12 string guitar, harmonica, mandolin, and vocals;    Peter Rowan on mandolin, mandola, gut string guitars, and vocals;   Norman Blake on Hawaiian guitar, dobro, mandolin, fiddle, and guitar;    Roy Huskey, Jr. on acoustic bass (and inspiration on "I'm Looking Through You");    and  Emmylou Harris on vocals for "Nothin' Without You" and "The Rivers of Babylon".   

Earle would exclaim:   "I was goin' for a sound where it sounded like old Opry stuff, where everybody stepped around the mike, which is real close to what we actually did. It ended up being even more of an organic record than I thought it was gonna be ... This ain't my unplugged record! ... This is what I used to do, and it is what the great players on this record do every day of their lives, come hell or high water; but make no mistake, this ain't no part of no unplugged nothin' ... ['Train A Comin'' is ] exactly the record I needed right now.  No major label would let me make this record coming back after four years especially.  I always wanted to do it.  It was a low-pressure record." 

'Train A Comin'' did not chart; but it was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.   


I remember holdin' on to you,
All them long and lonely nights I put you through.
Somewhere in there I'm sure I made you cry,
But I can't remember if we said goodbye.

But I recall all of them nights down in Mexico
One place I may never go in my life again.
Was I just off somewhere or just too high?
But I can't remember if we said goodbye.

I only miss you every now and then,
Like the soft breeze blowin' up from the Caribbean.
Most Novembers I break down and cry,
Cause I can't remember if we said goodbye.

But I recall all of them nights down in Mexico,
One place I will never go in my life again.
Was I just off somewhere or just too high?
But I can't remember if we said goodbye.
No I can't remember if we said goodbye.

"Mercenary Song"

"Hometown Blues"

"Angel is the Devil" with The Supersuckers

'Train A Comin'' 
full album:

All songs written by Steve Earle unless otherwise noted. Listing reflects Earle's sequencing of the record.

"Mystery Train, Pt. 2" - 2:31
"Hometown Blues" - 2:41
"Sometimes She Forgets" - 3:01
"Mercenary Song" - 2:39
"Goodbye" - 4:57
"Tom Ames' Prayer" - 3:02
"Nothin' Without You" - 3:02
"Angel Is the Devil" - 2:12
"I'm Looking Through You" - 2:28 (John Lennon and Paul McCartney)
"Northern Winds" - 1:40 (Norman Blake)
"Ben McCulloch" - 4:10
"Rivers of Babylon" - 3:30 (Brent Dowe, Trevor McNaughton, Frank Farian, George Reyam)
"Tecumseh Valley" - 4:28 (Townes Van Zandt)

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