Monday, December 12, 2011

Train Dreams

Pass me that flask of cognac with the 1950’s Union Pacific Dome-Liner etched on it. I’ll tell you about The Portland Rose. Vintage streamline rail cars, sailing up the western coastline, towards my favorite city. All aboard! Special Music-Art Train coming April 13-18. Los Angeles to Portland and back. Special guests: Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Jon Langford, and Thad Beckman. And yours truly: Tom Russell.

Embark from Union Station, an historic landmark right out of a Raymond Chandler story. Setting for a dozen Film Noir classics. The train hugs the California-Oregon coast - rugged coastline you’ll never see from the highway. Dave Alvin has pointed out that Cecil B. Demille created biblical movie sets along this beach line, which are now buried in the sand. We pass Spanish Land Grant ranches right out of the folk song “South Coast.” There’s a vintage dome car where people fall in and out of love. I’ve seen it. Hitchcock-ian!

The song South Coast brings me to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, who sings the definitive version. Let’s talk history: Ramblin' Jack busked on the streets of Paris and London in the 1950’s. A young Mick Jagger heard Jack busking on a London subway platform and Mick decided, then and there, to become a singer. Bob Dylan stole a few tricks from Jack. Guitar stylings, singing style, etc. Dig it. Jack’s a living, breathing legend.

Jon Langford was the drummer for The Mekons. He’s originally from Wales. Jon now performs with guitar and is hailed for pioneering a mix of folk, country and punk rock. He’s recorded classic alt-country for Bloodshot Records. Jon’s also a prolific visual artist. His portraits of country music legends like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash grace dozens of record and book covers. Jon is one of the finest “folk” painters in America, and a celebrated alt-country performer.

Thad Beckman, American Guitar Master, will be hosting open mikes and guitar workshops. (Bring your guitar and latest songs.) Late night “hoots’ and non-stop jamming. Thad is a master fingerpicker, blues artist, songwriter, and guitar teacher.

Workshops will also include: song swaps, concerts, and art discussions with Jon Langford, Tom Russell, Charlie Hunter, and Yard Dog Folk Gallery owner Randy Franklin. Our supreme commander, Charlie Hunter is also a master painter. Painters, guitar pickers, music fans, train buffs… welcome aboard.

Tom Russell? Myself? I sing original songs. I paint. I’ve been known, on odd rail midnights, to sing old Irish ballads, or Honky Tonk Women. Spontaneity is the key to great rail journeys. Wine. Good food. Song. International friends. Romance. Mystery.

The stops? L.A.! The City of the Angels! Portland, Oregon! One of my favorite cities. Fine food, and the best used bookstore in the world: Powell’s. Jake’s Famous Crawfish is one of my favorite American food joints. A real American City with soul, beauty, vision, and history. We’ll be there two nights.

Climb onboard. Email Sarah at or check out the full details: Payment plans discussed. Phone 802-258-1397. Toll Free.