Saturday, October 3, 2009

The John Train Band (featuring Mike "Slo-Mo" Brenner)

For many years now, one of the best bands in Philadelphia has been John Train. On stage and on record, lead vocalist and songwriter Jon Houlon does a deft job of mixing his great own songs with some well chosen covers pretty seamlessly. At his side since the beginning, playing amazingly on all kinds of guitars has been Mike Brenner, known for his excellent work with Marah and with his own band Slo-Mo. They've both been backed up by a talented group of musicians. The current lineup includes Steve Demarest (bass), Bill Fergusson (mandolin), Mark Tucker (guitar), and Mark Schreiber (percussion, drums).

Their most recent record, Mesopotamia Blues, was produced by Brenner and focuses on the war in Iraq. The songs look at the war and the region from a variety of perspectives. What really makes the record is the production and guitar work from Brenner, who helps to add some intresting Middle Eastern sounds, especially here.

John Train - Equipment Failure

At the center of the record are two songs that combine to tell an interesting story. The first of which is a cover of the late John Stewart's song "Draft Age," about a young man named Clarence Mulloy being sent off to Vietnam.

John Train - Draft Age (John Stewart cover)

This cover is followed by the song "Mulloy 2006" where Houlon writes of a middle aged Clarence Mulloy now faced with his son heading off to Iraq. This video and mp3 are from the band's performance at the Sellersville Theater on November 21, 2007.

John Train - Mulloy 2006 (Sellersville, PA - 11/21/07)

A typical John Train show features a lot of great covers. Here's a video and mp3 of one of my favorites, also from the same Sellersville show, Butch Walker's "Box Cars."

John Train - Boxcars (Butch Walker cover - 11/21/07)

Two more live covers of old folk traditionals recorded in Fairmount Park in July of 2007.

John Train - "I Know You Rider"

John Train - The Wind and the Rain

We'll close this one out with one last cover, Hank Williams' "You're Gonna Change or I'm Gonna Leave" from Johny Brendas in Philadelphia on September 21, 2007.

John Train is currently in the midst of their annual fall residency, playing every Friday night at 6 at Fergie's in Philadelphia, PA. It is always a great time so come check them out if you are in the area.

Download John Train's Mesopotamia Blues at

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