Ride This Train [Bonus Tracks]

by: Johnny Cash

Ride This Train was the first explicit Americana concept album that Johnny Cash recorded. As the title implies, the album is about railroads, how they developed and how they changed the land. Apart from a couple of songs, Ride This Train isn't comprised of traditional folk ballads -- they are songs that tell the history of trains and rails, offering an educational lesson. Cash expounds on the songs with brief spoken narratives. Though it is hard to fault Cash's intentions, the songs aren't very good (although "The Shifting Whispering Sands" is a standout) and the history is a bit simplistic and silly. On the whole, Ride This Train sounds as if it is of a piece with the Walt Disney educational features produced at the same time, and like those films, it is more interesting as an historical artifact than a piece of art.The 2002 CD reissue on Columbia/Legacy adds four bonus tracks, none of them related to the album's train concept, but all recorded, like the album, in late 1959 and early 1960. Two, "The Second Honeymoon" and "Smiling Bill McCall," came out on singles; one, "The Fable of Willie Brown," was previously unissued in the U.S., though it came out on the German Bear Family box set The Man In Black: 1959-1962; and the other, "The Ballad of the Harpweaver," was previously unreleased anywhere, though it was re-recorded in 1963 for the album The Christmas Spirit. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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