Thursday, November 17, 2011

Champagne Charlie looks out for Hobo Signs & Railroad Lines

HOBO SONGS in American Roots Music!
Take a tip from one who's travelled, never start to ramblin' round ( Carson Robison in The Railroad Boomer (1929)
Hans Koert

Champagne Charlie op zoek naar Hobo Signs & Railroad Lines (Nederlands) - Champagne Charlie looks out for Hobo Signs & Railroad Lines ( English)


Thirty years ago I had an album in my collection of a blues harmonica player, probably Sonny Terry, who could imitate a train on his instrument, which left a railway station, steaming along villages and bridges, blowing its steam whistle at crossings, before it, after three minutes (!) playing time, entered the next city to stop at the platform of the main station. It's no longer part of my collection - I must have sold that album ............. I remembered those effects on the harmonica, which gave me that illusion of a train at full speed, when I listened to the fourth track, entiteld Hobo Blues, of a new album by the Dutch Blues and Roots band Champagne Charlie: Hobo Signs & Railroad Lines. Gait Klein Kromhof imitates a steam engine on this track with his Seydel Harmonica and so you'll understand why the members of Champagne Charlie selected the local Stoomtrein Goes-Borsele shunting-yard in Goes in the southwestern part of The Netherlands for a photo session. This album is all about Hobo's and trains ................ Champagne Charlie: f.l.t.r. Geert De Heer - Peter Lenselink - Gait Klein Kromhof - Sjef Hermans - Theo De Koning - Peter Bout. (photo courtesy: Hans De Graaf)
This album was released with the support of the
Roosevelt Study Center of Middelburg in the southwest part of The Netherlands, which celebrates its 25th birthday this year. Champagne Charlie, which features lead vocalist Sjef Hermans; guitar player Theo De Koning; mandoline player, Geert De Heer, who also plays the banjo, lapsteel guitar and dobro; harmonica player Gait Klein Kromhof, double bass player Peter Bout and drummer Peter Lenselink, was founded almost 25 years ago, as a follow-up of the Downtown Jug Stompers, which played pre-war acoustical country-blues, ragtime and jug band music and featured Champagne Charlie members Theo De Koning and Sjef Hermans.

Champagne Charlie - Hobo Signs & Railroad Lines (MCBR2011-7)
A few years ago this Zeeland Blues and Roots band released, also in cooperation with the Roosevelt Study Centre, an album with songs related to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the US president, whose roots are in this part of The Netherlands, in the province of Zeeland a
t the former island of Tholen. In the album Down The Road, recorded in 2007, dedicated to Train Songs, Road Songs, Songs About Leavings and Songs About Trying to Get Home, Champagne Charlie touched on the subject of Hobo's and Train Jumpers and the tune Hobo's Lullaby, a Goebel "The Texas Drifter" Reeves composition, can be found on both releases. Hobo Signs & Railroad Lines features 15 tracks, all songs related to the 1930s Hobo's, seasonal workers, which were no tramps or bums, in their own opinion, but gentlemen of the road - The Hobo was the highest in class Sjef quotes in the liner notes Jeff Davis, King of the Hoboes: A hobo was a migratory worker who was always willing to work to make his way. The extensive liner notes by Sjef Hermans make this great album a great reference work about this subject. Did you know that a Dutchman, Gerard Leeflang, was a Hobo himself? He wrote a book about this period in his life entitled American Travels of a Dutch Hobo 1923 - 1926. Isn't that great?
Champagne Charlie at the Stoomtrein Goes-Borsele shunting-yard in Goes. (photo courtesy: Hans De Graaf)
Most songs selected for this album are from the 1930s, the period of the Great Depression, when people like Gerard Leeflang tried to make a living as casual workers ........ The songs selected tell about the hard life of the workers, the trains and how to steal a ride in blind baggage ....... (Slow down, slow down let me step on board I wanna ride your train just before I go) ( J.B. Lenoir in Slow Down).
Thanks to the information in the liner notes Hobo Songs in American Roots Music by Sjef Hermans, you can learn a lot about the history of Hobo's and the selected tracks. I liked their version of Slow Down, in which you can hear the train thanks to the harmonica of Gait, but also the stunning tune Big Rock Candy Mountains, in which a Hobo dreams about his Land of Plenty, where hens lay soft boiled egs and the handouts grow on bushes, composed by Harry McClintock, aka Haywire Mac, whose life, as a global hobo, was one big adventure. And what to think about the Blind Blake composition Police Dog Blues, originally recorded in August 1929 for Paramount? - Blues as blues should be played .... I really liked Freight Train, a tune originally recorded by a young Libba Cotton, early 1900s, when she was just a young kid, inspired by the trains that passed her house. She had learned to play the guitar, she named it Stella, upside down, without a re-strung necessary for left-handed playing. The way she played the guitar became unique and is called the Cotton Picking style, referring to the better known Finger Picking Style. She recorded this tune Freight Train in 1958 and became active until her 80s - she passed away June 1987, 92 yeas old.
The Freight Train ........... with members of Champagne Charlie steal a ride in blind baggage (photo courtesy: Hans De Graaf)

This album by Champagne Charlie - Hobo Signs & Railroad Lines is the second one in a series of co-productions with the Roosevelt Study Center and the band has grew with this new production into its role as a roots band with more then regional aspirations. I'm anxious to learn more about its next project - maybe the music of the Depression Era? A hot item nowadays. I suggest to call it: Cheer Up, The Good Times Are Comin’

Hans Koert

keepswinging@live.nl
The Dutch Blues & Roots band Champagne Charlie goes deeply into the past with its project about Hobo's, seasonal workers from the 1920s and 30s, adventurers, travelling by train as stowaways, seeking for work and fortunes. Sjef Hermans and his men recorded a bunch of tunes, Hobo tunes, related to this subject in an album entiteld Hobo Signs & Railroad Lines, subtitled Hobo Songs in American Roots Music. A great album! Keep Swinging loves to point you to this kind of well documented historical recordings - if you don't want to miss it, follow it at Twitter ( #keepswinging) or ask its free newsletter( keepswinging@live.nl). And if you love to learn what Keep Swinging blogs are very popular, please visit the site with the Ten Most Popular blogs of last month.
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4 Comments:

Blogger Jo said...

Thanks for this review of an interesting project by Champagne Charlie. The subject, however, is not unknown among fans of American roots music. I like to point to Ry Cooder's early 1970s "Boomer's Story" lp-recording of a similar project. Anyway, great to learn that Champagne Charlie carries on the story of the hobo in music.
Jo

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Gary said...

Wow!I never know them but when you discussed it on your article I got so amazed by them. Well said topics...

2:27 PM  
Anonymous Steven said...

Nice post which entiteld Hobo Blues, of a new album by the Dutch Blues and Roots band Champagne Charlie: Hobo Signs & Railroad Lines. Gait Klein Kromhof imitates a steam engine on this track with his Seydel Harmonica and so you'll understand why the members of Champagne Charlie selected the local Stoomtrein Goes-Borsele shunting-yard in Goes in the southwestern part of The Netherlands for a photo session.

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...

Great article which Hobo Signs & Railroad Lines features 15 tracks, all songs related to the 1930s Hobo's, seasonal workers, which were no tramps or bums, in their own opinion, but gentlemen of the road . The Hobo was the highest in class Sjef quotes in the liner notes Jeff Davis, King of the Hoboes: A hobo was a migratory worker who was always willing to work to make his way. Thanks a lot.

5:52 PM  

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