Nine Hundred Miles
10. Nine Hundred Miles
(Woody Guthrie/Sanga Music, BMI)
Track 10 – Nine Hundred Miles (MASTER 702)
Moe Asch arbitrarily titled this “Lonesome Train” when Guthrie, Houston, and Terry recorded it on April 24, 1944, this is part of a complex of railroad songs that travel under various names: “Reuben,” “Train 45,” “900 Miles,” and more. Guthrie claimed he learned the song as a youth from a black harmonica player who shined shoes for a living in Okemah, Oklahoma. Certainly it was one of many songs that crossed racial barriers despite Jim Crow laws throughout the South. According to the foremost scholar of railroad songs, Norm Cohen, Guthrie’s minor-key version “became standard among folksong revival performers” from the 1940s on. (See his Long Steel Rail [University of Illinois Press, 1981], pp. 503-517.)
Here Terry’s harmonica wails a sympathetic lament to Guthrie’s singing and mandolin. Houston’s guitar is not well miked, but he is there as well.