Monday, June 30, 2008

On Freight Train

"Freight Train" is one of those songs that every acoustic guitar player learns at some point. I learned it as a kid when I was taking guitar lessons, but I don't think I truly appreciated it until I became a guitar teacher myself. Now, it's one of the first tunes I will teach to a student who wants to learn how to fingerpick a melody. The beauty of "Freight Train" is that it's deceptively simple. You can play it completely straight -- with no syncopation or fancy licks, which is what makes it so perfect for teaching fingerstyle guitar. And it's great for learning how to syncopate and interpret a melody in different ways. Somehow even though I hear it almost every week, I never get tired of it.

I once saw Libba Cotton, the author of "Freight Train," perform a concert at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. She must have been at least 92. She had recently fallen and broken her ankle, so she performed the entire concert with her foot in a cast, propped up on a chair in front of her. She was one of the most down-to-earth, personable performers I have ever seen. I feel lucky to have seen that concert.

Today I learned "Freight Train" has been inducted into the Library of Congress as one of the most important recordings ever.

Congratulations to Libba Cotton, and here's to one of the seminal folk songs of our time, "Freight Train."

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Anonymous David said...

As one of Eve's students, I concur. I've been playing various versions of it almost daily for a couple of months now, and I'm still not tired of it. In fact, as I was "getting" the newest variation one night this week, I had a wide, involuntary smile on my face. I really feel that I'm learning to fingerpick!

Eve's a great teacher!

September 26, 2008 at 3:33 PM  

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Location: Toronto, ON, Canada

I'm a musician and songwriter based in Toronto.

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