“I’m gonna climb aboard and ride until I learn to smile, I’ll be knockin’ out the blues while I’m knockin’ out the miles,” thunders Johnny Cash on the opening track of his 14th album, All Aboard the Blue Train. Growing up in rural Arkansas, it’s said that Cash’s earliest memory was sitting on his family’s porch, hearing the sound of a train whistle and watching as migrant families passed by, huddled together in boxcars. The hope the railway symbolized and its mysterious aura resonated with Johnny and would remain with him for the rest of his life. Over time, his fascination with the railroad would inspire him to create some of the most iconic songs of the ’50s and ’60s; quickly earning him the title of “America’s foremost singing storyteller.” No clearer is the accuracy of this statement than on All Aboard the Blue Train, a somewhat forgotten album compiled by Sun Records, two years after he had moved to Columbia Records.
Combining a number of his hits up to that point and putting them together as a train-centric piece, Blue Train is essentially a glorified compilation album, albeit a surprisingly good one.
Accompanied by the simplistic staccato guitar arrangements of the Tennessee Two, Cash’s distinctive baritone sounds larger than life, creating an interesting depth that launches these songs way beyond the country music spectrum.
Because each song was recorded separately over a period of five years, the fluidity of this album is surprisingly great. From the title track ‘blue train,’ to the concluding ‘so doggone lonesome,’ it flows almost as seamlessly as his later locomotive-laden Columbia release, Ride This Train.
Though nothing new, this album serves as a perfect primer for those unfamiliar with Cash’s early work, and for his dedicated fans as an interesting way to experience familiar songs in a new context.Posted: November 6, 2012