While the transit system in New York remains a mercurial beast, let’s just take a moment to appreciate how reliable trains have been in the past century of songwriting. Since the first full-scale railway steam locomotive was debuted in 1804, train songs popped up immediately and never stopped; trains as metaphors, trains as getaways, trains as good-time, chooglin’ rhythms. Now that trains mostly inspire disgruntled tweets, have we finally wrung their poetry dry?
Enter Phil Cook, a singer and songwriter who’s clocked in with Megafaun, Hiss Golden Messenger, DeYarmond Edison and more. His lovely new track, “Steampowered Blues” — from his upcoming LP People Are My Drug (June 1) — doesn’t reinvent the wheel within the hallowed train-song canon, but… yeah, so? There’s no tricks or gimmicks here — a little vibrato guitar, a swinging rhythm section, a few raindrops of piano and a lively double-time chant to wrap it up. It adds up to a sweet, easygoing flow of happy sound, a simple beat with a good feeling to boot.
Says Cook himself, “’Steampowered Blues’ is the first song I wrote for People Are My Drug. I’ve long been drawn to the swing and swagger of New Orleans’ step rhythms. The left-right bass lines get my feet stepping, whereas the drums channel my hip movements and the weightless, carefree melodies often coax my arms from my sides toward the sky. Within my mortal body and experience, this music is my church.”
So, next time you’re so tired of runnin’, you wish someone would just slip you something, et al, don’t immediately tie one on to forget about it — you could do worse for a peaceful, easy feeling than “Steampowered Blues.” Listen to the premiere below and preorder People Are My Drug here.
Phil Cook Tour Dates