Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bob Dylan Song #11: Freight Train Blues

"Trad arr. Dylan" again, eh? Well, whatever; the song's been around since 1935 and been covered by everyone from Hank Williams to (gasp!) Ramblin' Jack Elliott, so I suppose nobody would really mind. Of course, with four chords to work from, the arranging must've taken all of five seconds. "You want that in the key of E, Bob? Okay, good. Roll it!"

The concept of using trains as a metaphor for damn near anything has a long and fruitful history - I'm probably not the only one that thinks of Johnny Cash singing about watching rich folks eating in their fancy dining car. Before leaving on a jet plane or driving away or, I dunno, teleporting away from your sweetheart 100 years from now, there was no better way to say "baby, I gotta move on" than tossing some malarkey about trains out there. I myself happen to love trains and riding on them, so my memories of them are more tied up on a relaxing ride to New York than, say, jumping in an open car and riding the rails. But hey, I've seen Sullivan's Travels, so there you go.

The best I can say about this song is that Dylan seems to be having a whale of a time - he uses the words "blues" and "shoes" to draw out a high note a la Hank Williams on "Lovesick Blues", and at one point he holds the note for exactly 14 seconds, letting out a little chuckle at the end like "can you believe they're PAYING me to do this?" I'm guessing he chose this one so he could have a little fun and goof around, and it's nice to have that here. All the same, it feels like a throwaway, more of a setup to the song that comes next, and I'm afraid to say that this blog post will serve the same purpose. Fear not, though - next week, there's gonna be some real meat to sink our collective teeth into.

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Unknown said...

Hey man.

I just found this blog through Joyofsox. I've spent the last hour or so reading your posts and listening to a copy of the debut (which, like you, I have never really listened to outside of Pretty Peggy-O and Highway 51).

The blog is great, and extrordinarily interesting. I've bookmarked it. Give it time, and a whole mess of other people will, too. Keep it up.

Tony said...

Thanks a bunch! I hope you're right about more people finding my blog. :) I'm glad to have a Sox fan reading my blog - nice to know we're a cultured fanbase, unlike certain other ones I can think of...

David George Freeman said...

Hello Tony, Thanks for posting this interesting analysis of a song performed by Bob Dylan. Join us inside his Music Box and listen to all the great versions.