The title song from Country Tales and Hobo Trails was actually the last song I wrote for the album. I’d had the title for a couple of years and knew that the song would come along when it was ready – and it did, thankfully.
The first inspiration for me I guess was a book I bought in a library, Kenneth Allsop’s, Hard Travellin’, The Hobo and his history. Shortly after that I saw John T Davis’ documentary, Hobo, on television.
I was, and am, fascinated by the life of the hobo. There was a photograph from Life magazine from the 1930’s I believe that is so poignant to me, a man walking along railway tracks, everything he owns on his back.
I had also visited an old trail just outside Hartsville in Tennessee, Holston Trail, complete with a small cemetery with its graves and headstones of pioneers from a time long gone. This trail was also the inspiration for the song Ghosts of Tennessee that’s on the album.
One night I was playing around with tuning on the guitar. We were sitting outside our home in Mount Juliet as we usually do most summer evenings and the song just came within a few minutes. The back cover of the Songs From a Trailer Park shows me recording it outside on my iPad. I wrote the lyrics properly the next day.
Johnny Cash once said that his favourite sound was the horn from a freight train. When Bob Harris was staying in Nashville a few years back he said that he too loved the sound of a train’s horn. The train Bob could hear was the Music City Star, the passenger train that runs from Lebanon right into Nashville, and we’re woken every morning by the sound of its horn as it approaches the small station at Mount Juliet.
It seemed fitting to start the track, and indeed the album, with the sound of its horn. I hope Johnny Cash would approve.
Country Tales and Hobo Trails album is available now from iTunes, Amazon and all good websites, or you can order a CD direct from jonjohanson.com.
Country Tales and Hobo Trails single is released on July 4.