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You could hear that whistle blow 100 miles

The American Songbook is not for the feint of heart. Trains, cars, whiskey, sex, money, work, loneliness, death – even murder – and God, not necessarily in that order. Vernacular music, music of the people, perhaps the expression of a culture just before the great decline.

You should-a been uptown when Reuben’s train came down, you could hear that whistle blow a hundred miles. Listen to the Foghorn Stringband. For a band with no banjo, they really cook.

I can feel Reuben’s train rumblin’ down the track. Long steel rail and short cross tie – bound to get to heaven when I die.

When people ask me why I’m so caught up in this Old Time music thing, I show them two or three videos which say it way better than I can with words.

My baby loves shortnin’ shortnin’, my baby loves shortnin’ bread…. This is Chicken Train, John Herrman on banjo, John Engle on fiddle, Meredith McIntosh on guitar.

I could watch this next video 100 times in a row and never get tired of it. Bashful Brother Oswald is the singer. Cathy Barton is frailing the banjo. Polly-wolly-doodle.

One more before I call it a night. I’ve shared this one before but it is so good it deserves another look. It’s the fantastic Mac Beattie and his Ottawa Valley Melodiers performing Saturday Night up the Gatineau.




  1. That threw me a curve! I was expecting a more down-home version of the “Five Hundred Miles” song that Peter. Paul and Mary made famous. I have to say, something as lively as that left me in a better mood.

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