Railroad (album)

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Railroad John Fahey1.jpg
Cover of the mis-labeled Railroad.
Studio album by
RecordedDirk Dalton Studios, Los Angeles
ProducerJohn Fahey, Tom Davis
John Fahey chronology
Live in Tasmania
Let Go

Railroad is an album by American fingerstyle guitarist and composer John Fahey, released in 1983. It was originally released as Railroad 1 by mistake. The Shanachie Records reissue is correctly labeled as Railroad. It was his last principal recording for Takoma Records, the label he founded in 1959.


John Fahey had a lifelong attraction to trains and railroads. His long-time friend and collaborator Barry Hansen recalled in an interview about Fahey's initial move to Oregon, "He loved the green countryside. He was near a railroad track and he liked that. He loved to watch trains."[1] In his original liner notes, Fahey writes of train yards, individuals related to trains, and memories of trains and railroads.[2] Nearly every track title refers to a train or railroad.[3]

Railroad was Fahey's last principal recording for Takoma Records, the label he founded in 1959. He cited the strain of running the label and its lack of direction as reasons for selling it to the UK-based Chrysalis Records.[4] In a 1997 interview with Jason Gross, he stated "The reason that I got rid of it was almost everybody in the office started taking cocaine and I couldn't get rid of it. We weren't losing money or anything. We were still selling records. I made the terrible mistake of giving stock to the employees so I couldn't fire them. The only thing I could do was to dissolve the company. While I was doing that, Chrysalis offered to buy it and I said 'sure, take it.'"[5] Other sources refer to Fahey's lack of interest in the business side of running Takoma, the company's debt, and the current poor business climate of the record industry.[6][7][8]

"Life is Like a Mountain Railroad" is a version of the country song "Life's Railway to Heaven" by Charles Davis Tillman and M. E. Abbey.[3]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic3/5 stars[9]
Record Collector3/5 stars [10]
Stylus(B+) [11]

In his Record Collector review, Terry Stauton called the music "twangily instrumental laments to the almost mythical trains of frontier America" and "perhaps an ideal starting point from which to further investigate his vast catalogue."[10]

Critic Stewart Voegtlin praised the 2007 reissue in Stylus, singling out the tracks "Oneonta", "Imitation Train Whistles/Po' Boy" and "Afternoon Espee Through Salem". He commented Fahey "coasted through enough records; he labored honestly at others. Railroad undoubtedly shows both approaches, but holds enough magic in its shallow well to keep those that seek a bare bones account of the man that made it mired in stubborn stories that do little to lay the self-proclaimed 'primitive' bare."[11]

In his liner notes for the Ace Records 2007 reissue, author Kris Needs calls Railroad "...a timelessly evocative tribute to America’s mighty man-made artery."[12]


Track listing[edit]

All songs by John Fahey unless otherwise noted.

  1. "Frisco Leaving Birmingham" – 3:23
  2. "Oneonta" – 2:28
  3. "Summer Cat by My Door" – 4:11
  4. "Steve Talbot on the Keddie Wye" – 4:31
  5. "Afternoon Espee Through Salem" – 4:27
  6. "Enigmas and Perplexities of the Norfolk and Western" – 3:10
  7. "Charlie Becker's Meditation" – 3:20
  8. "Medley: Imitation Train Whistles/Po'boy" – 4:53
  9. "Life is Like a Mountain Railroad" (Traditional) – 2:13
  10. "Delta Dog Through the Book of Revelation" – 4:50


Production notes

  • John Fahey – producer, original liner notes
  • Tom Davis – producer, engineer
  • Melody Fahey – cover photo


  1. ^ Gross, Jason. "Dr. Demento gets serious about John Fahey". Perfect Sound Forever. Retrieved March 5, 2009.
  2. ^ Fahey, John. "Railroad > original liner notes". Retrieved March 20, 2010.
  3. ^ a b Guerrieri, Claudio (2014). The John Fahey Handbook, Vol. 2. pp. 185–186. ISBN 978-0-9853028-1-8.
  4. ^ Pouncey, Edwin (August 1998). "Blood on the Frets". The Wire (174). Retrieved March 15, 2010.
  5. ^ Gross, Jason (October 1997). "John Fahey Interview". Perfect Sound Forever. Retrieved March 31, 2010.
  6. ^ Coley, Byron (May 2001). "The Persecutions and Resurrections of Blind Joe Death". Perfect Sound Forever. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
  7. ^ Dunlap Jr., David (July 7, 2006). "The Cosmos Club". Washington City Paper. Archived from the original on June 27, 2008. Retrieved March 10, 2010.
  8. ^ Baron, Zach. "The Lost Takoma Sessions". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved April 4, 2010.
  9. ^ "Review: Railroad". Allmusic. Retrieved March 20, 2010.
  10. ^ a b Staunton, Terry (2007). "Review: Railroad". Record Collector (339).
  11. ^ a b Voegtlin, Stewart (September 2007). "Review: Railroad". Stylus Magazine.
  12. ^ Needs, Kris. "Railroad > Liner notes from 2007 reissue". Missing or empty |url= (help)