In the Pines

by Bluebird, February 2015

In the summer of 1996 I moved from Philadelphia to Chicago on a solitary, 24 hour ride on Amtrak's Cardinal line. I was 13 years old, about to start high school. On an otherwise empty car I met a friend I have to this day, Lou Capwell. We listened to Belle & Sebastien, which I still do, though not on a Discman. I read a book of Bukowski poems, which I haven't really done since. (I'm more soft than hard, though I try to stay balanced.) Ten years later I was living in Oakland and the Coast Starlight ran past my building. The horns would startle me from sleep, but I do miss the sound of the wheels on the tracks.

Kelso by Louis Capwell, 2012

I've always loved trains and in particular, folk songs about trains. There are so many of them, there's a even dedicated page on Wikipedia. The most relevant to our studies is of course the tale of John Henry, a man who fought and died against a steam drill that had no capacity to understand the stakes. Still, the trains pay their respect: "Every locomotive comin' a-rolling by / Hollered, there lies a steel-drivin' man, man, man."

In the Pines by Carrie Schneider, 2006

My favorite train song doesn't have a train in every version, and isn't always called "In the Pines." I first heard it a few years before my Cardinal ride, as "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" on Nirvana's Unplugged album. It was almost twenty more years before I heard Lead Belly's version, and only then did I notice the title of the Carrie Schneider photograph at my parents' house. I found every recording of the song I could, and spliced together my own version. I'm singing it here along GarageBand's automatic Bluebird drum kit, and some of Lou’s train footage from Macungie, PA.