Did you ever try to learn to play music from the “teach yourself” instructional books
or videos out there? Did the uninspiring songs, exercises and the whole approach to “learning music” kind
of leave you cold? Well you are not alone. People have been passing music on to each other for centuries, and usually
not by lessons and books.
To the rescue comes Harvey Reid & Joyce Andersen’s 4th collaboration recording, a monumental 4-CD boxed set titled “The
Song Train.” These versatile musicians have assembled and recorded beautiful versions of an amazing collection
of folk, blues, country, celtic, gospel, old-time, bluegrass and rock songs. These songs are a cross-section of the American
musical experience, and they have been recorded by an incredible line-up
of artists over the years. None of the songs has more
than two chords, and they are delivered here with only basic acoustic guitar to drive the music.
“The Song Train” offers a repertoire of vibrant and durable songs to inspire and guide people who want to learn
to play music, as well as a body of music that any musician can use at a jam session or even on a concert stage. An ingenious
and unique teaching tool, it is both a demonstration of how to deliver songs simply and effectively, and a thoroughly enjoyable
listening experience on its own.
Reid & Andersen have done a remarkable job of finding, arranging and recording this music, and their performances are
exciting and fresh. The songs run the gamut from sturdy old favorites like “Black Jack Davy,” “Rock Island
Line,” “Old Blue” and “Tom Dooley” to obscure hymns, new folk chestnuts, country, blues,
rock and bluegrass classics, as well as gems from the pens of America’s greatest songwriters such as Woody Guthrie,
Bob Dylan, J.J. Cale, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams and even Chuck Berry.
Anyone who has tried to learn guitar has experienced the lack of enticing songs in instructional materials (largely
due to copyright restrictions), and this collection offers a glorious pile of great songs to fill this void, and
a musical “Rosetta
Stone.” Since it is a recording and not a book or video, it includes a rarity in music education- a significant
number of copyrighted songs by modern writers.
Reid & Andersen have lovingly and ably boiled these songs down to
their essence and performed them with spirit and conviction, pointing the way for people to be able to learn to
play music by ear, using a substantial body of respected music that is fresh and alive, but musically accessible
Reid & Andersen share the lead vocal roles shared evenly, with a few duets and some of their razor-sharp harmonies
on choruses. Some tasteful fiddle, lead guitar, mandolin and dobro keeps the music interesting, and also presents a model
of how good musicians approach simple material.
A lavish 80-page illustrated hardback book details the history and traces the discography of each song, with careful explanations
of the chords, progressions, tunings, tricks, keys and other playing tips. Also included are lucid discussions of music theory
and essential guitar knowledge for the non-musician.
Not only is “The Song Train” an incredible resource of songs and basic playing styles,
it is also an introduction to the rich world of American acoustic music, opening a door to the remarkable tapestry
of songs that flourish “under
the radar” and off the pop music charts. Armed with only a guitar and this collection, you could follow the threads,
the sounds, artists and authors of the songs to discover much of the hidden landscape of music that artists like Reid & Andersen
are a vital part of.
To hear these songs performed by such skilled musicians is a sheer joy, an inspiration, and a siren call to anyone to grab
a guitar and take a ride on The Song Train.
If you ever thought you wanted to experience for yourself the unrivaled power of music, and suspect that you might
be able to bang out a few songs on a guitar, there is now a valuable new resource available to inspire you and
show you the way. “The
Song Train” stands by itself as fine music, but may prove to be one of the most important contributions ever
made to American music education, and a wonderful gift to the rank-and-file musicians and would-be troubadours from two of
most talented artists.