In Sugar Land Prison they used to say that if the Houston train shone its light into your cell, you were going to get parole. It’s a keen hope that makes up the chorus for ‘Midnight Special’, one of the many train songs from the Ulster Hall playlist by Billy Bragg and Joe Henry. The tunes are from the songbooks of Lead Belly, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie and The Carter Family. The ‘Shine A Light’ record was recorded in transit across America and it carries a load of heartbreak, injustice, love and deliverance.
“This is not a nostalgia project,” says, Joe, who has produced greats like Solomon Burke, Allen Toussaint and Bettye LaVette. Tonight we hear some of his own piercing work including ‘Trampoline’ and ‘Our Song’, but the core mission is to revisit the songs that Joe believes are “vividly alive”.