This is a rendition of a 19th century blues ballad called "Railroad Bill", off the forthcoming LP "Folk Songs for Old Times' Sake", releasing November 2nd on EarthTone Records.

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Arrangement and performance by Nicholas Edward Williams

Lyrics and original song written by Mississippi John Hurt

Video by James Crowley, shot at GrinderHouse Coffee in Crossville, TN (Aug 2021)


History on the Tradition:

”Railroad Bill" is a blues ballad that dates to the 19th century and has been performed and recorded by many folk artists throughout the 20th century. People have conjectured that the subject of the song is an African American outlaw named Morris Slater who robbed freight trains in the 1890s. Slater's nickname was Railroad Bill. Only a few of the song's dozens of stanzas seem to refer specifically to Slater's activities. Stories about Morris Slater began to surface in newspapers in 1895. Slater robbed freight trains, primarily in Alabama and western Florida along the Louisville & Nashville Railroad line. His method was to throw merchandise off moving railroad cars and pick it up later. Slater allegedly killed at least two sheriffs as they, and a succession of detectives and railroad officers, tried to apprehend him. He was shot to death in Atmore, Alabama on March 7, 1897." This version is inspired by Piedmont blues guitarist Etta Baker’s instrumental rendition, who was a direct influence on Taj Mahal, BB King, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan, who wrote “Don’t Think Twice” after meeting her on his 21st birthday.

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