The creation of the US Rail system involved millions of people from many of the cultures that have existed in the US zeitgeist.  From the Southern Black American experience to White Appalachian, Irish immigrants, Chinese Immigrants, Native Americans, and more, each culture at some point had their hands on the rails, spikes, ties, and engines that connected all the states and territories, and most had a song or two to sing about the experience. 

Famous songs such as “Casey Jones” or “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” are well known, but what is not as well remembered is the vast catalogue of folklore and music that, when looked at as a collection, tells a vibrant, complex story of the American Dream and the expansionist mindset that shaped our nation and made it a global superpower for most of the 20th Century.

Train wreck Songs such as “The Wreck of Old 97” spread the news of famous and terrible catastrophes. The impact of the music of the Gandy Dancers - Black Americans who straightened the rail lines in the South - can be felt by many improvised styles that came after it, such as blues, jazz, and hip-hop, and gave insight into the lives of these men and the culture around them.  And hard-luck Irish ballads such as “Drill, Ye Terriers, Drill”, tell a story of a repressed cultural group whose struggle has been mostly forgotten by the Modern era.

Radical Evolution is hard at work, forging a dynamic new performance piece inspired by and utilizing this rich musical history. Through music and theatrical performance, we will explore how building the railroads was a pivotal moment in US history, which not only helped to created the US as a superpower, but generated unbelievable wealth to a select few, did so at the expense of thousands of lives, and created one of the deepest cannons of music ever created in this country.  

For more information on this project, please email Beto at beto@radicalevolution.org.