Skip to main content

Shine a Light: Billy Bragg & Joe Henry on the Railway

Billy Bragg
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Early this year legendary British musician Billy Bragg and American songwriter Joe Henry boarded an Amtrak train bound for Los Angeles.

Along the 2800 mile trip, the duo dropped off at a variety of stops to record what would become  Shine a Light: Field Recordings From the Great American Railroad.  Each of the tracks on the album relates in one way or another to the history and mythology of, as the title puts, “The Great American Railroad.”shine-a-light-cover-art

The concept is, admittedly, a little hokey, and in the hands of lesser artists the album could easily have been a simple novelty. The tracks on the record have all been recorded countless times, but in their earnestness as musical anthropologists Bragg and Henry manage to bring real depth to the music and open the door to exploring America’s relationship with the railroad.

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry - "The Midnight Special" (Live at Non-Comm 2016)

It helps that Bragg is a Briton; the UK, unlike the US, has an extensive passenger rail system. Additionally, as Henry described in an interview with Salon last month, Bragg’s not being an American allows him to “[look] into this country with an aerial view of our mythology…and our sense of national identity.” He continued, “And part of what Billy is fascinated about — and I join him there — is waking ourselves up and anybody willing to listen to the fact that not only is the road still an active part of our lives  and stands to be more so if we would seize the opportunity. But it’s a really significant part of our heritage and the way that we understand ourselves and how we relate to each other. I think we need to be awake to that.”

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry - "In The Pines" (Live at Non-Comm 2016)

The United States has a unique relationship with the railroad. It’s one we tend to mythologize and place in the past, but Bragg & Henry, through Shine a Light, present an opportunity to bridge misty memories of how rail used to work with how it works now and will work moving forward.

Billy Bragg and Joe Henry - Railroad Bill (Live on The Current)

Billy Bragg and Joe Henry’s Shine a Light: Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad is out now through Cooking Vinyl and available on Amazon, iTunes, and through Bragg’s Emporium.

Terence Praet
Terence Praet contributes to The Manual’s New Music Monday column. He studied Philosophy and History at Skidmore College…
What UFC champions Sean O’Malley and Aljamain Sterling eat while cutting weight in fight week
Spoiler alert: There's a lot of protein
Chicken breast and broccoli

Whether you're a fan of mixed martial arts (MMA) or just curious about the behind-the-scenes routines of professional fighters, you might be wondering how UFC champions "Suga" Sean O'Malley and Aljamain "Funkmaster" Sterling get ready for fight week.

One slightly controversial part of their prep is cutting weight up to the fight. Weight cutting is a common practice in most combat sports and refers to dropping weight before a competition to compete in a specific weight class.

Read more
Shohei Ohtani all but gone, MLB franchise LA Angels may also lose Mike Trout: Report
Our GM hopes they both move to Chavez Ravine to play for The Dodgers
Shohei Otani playing baseball

The Los Angeles Angels may be on their way to a major team overhaul. Shohei Ohtani, who is one of the best and most innovative two-way players in the history of baseball, has already made it clear that he wants to leave the team, and now, news has broken suggested that Mike Trout, the team's other major star, could also be on his way out the door. Needless to say, losing both of their major stars could have an enormous impact on what the Angels look like moving forward.
Shohei Ohtani is almost definitely leaving
At the end of this season, during which Ohtani has been riddled with injuries, the phenom will be a free agent, and those closest to the league suggest that he's likely to sign with another team. Everyone from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the New York Mets is expected to pursue him this off-season for understandable reasons, and Ohtani has previously made it clear that he's not necessarily thrilled with the way this season has gone for the Angels, who are set to miss the playoffs completely.

Ohtani has yet to formalize any sort of deal with another team, but the question seems to be more about where he'll end up than whether he'll stay with the Angels. The team did choose to hold onto him past the trade deadline, a move they say they don't regret, so it's still possible that the two sides find some way to come to an agreement. In all likelihood, though, Ohtani's time with the Angels is done, and he'll be in a new uniform when the next season starts.

Read more
She shed? Yoga studio? Man cave? For $11k, this incredibly nice Costco shed can be whatever you want – with a catch
Buy it by October 1 if you're interested
A person doing yoga outside of a she shed.

All adults want their own private space. She shed, man cave, reading nook, yoga studio, scream hut — whatever you want your personal bubble for, Costco wants to grant your wish. As if a Costco membership didn't already open doors to magical worlds, they offer a deal to take if you want a personal sanctuary in your backyard. If this sounds too good to be true, there are a few things to know before you run to your local Costco, but see if this fantastic offer could make your shed life goals happen for you.

What you want to know about the Gorilla Escape 12x10 Shed
Let's dive into the good stuff you care about.
The shed details

Read more