NonCOMM Recap: Billy Bragg and Joe Henry led a trip down the dusty trails of America
Billy Bragg & Joe Henry | photo by Sydney Schaefer for WXPN

Legendary singer-songwriters Billy Bragg and Joe Henry brought their collaborative new album Shine a Light to the PRX Music Stage upstairs at NonCOMM tonight. Recorded during a 65 hour train ride across America, the record digs into the country’s rich locomotive and folk music history.

Throughout the set Bragg told stories of their railtrip, which began in Chicago, wound its way through the midwest and Texas and ended in Los Angeles. They recorded the album of covers at train stations during brief stops for the most part, though one song was recorded in the same Gunter Hotel room as the Robert Johnson sessions.

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Theirs is an interesting perspective, though. With this first live performance of the songs from Shine a Light, the respectively English and American musicians surveyed their surroundings through songs about the land, songs about being on a train and songs about trains themselves. Highlights were heartfelt renditions of Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind,” folk standard “Railroad Bill” and Lead Belly tune “Midnight Special.” It’s a fascinating project that shares a wealth of history and lore.

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John Henry
In The Pines
Railroad Bill
Gentle On My Mind

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