Meade Lux Lewis: Honky Tonk Train Blues


Honky Tonk Train Blues


Meade Lux Lewis (piano)


Boogie Woogie & Blues Piano (Mosaic Select 30)

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Meade Lux Lewis (piano).

Composed by Meade Lux Lewis


Recorded: Chicago, May 7, 1936


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

With its insistent 8-to-the-bar rhythm, boogie-woogie piano is a natural match for a freight train. While there have been many train-inspired boogie compositions, none can match Meade “Lux” Lewis’s “Honky Tonk Train” for exuberance and energy. Lewis’s Paramount version from 1927 was one of the earliest boogie recordings, but the 1936 Victor version is probably the best of the many versions Lewis recorded in his lifetime. His left-hand work is astounding: using a simple dotted-eighth/sixteenth pattern, he holds the train rhythm rock-steady and never loses intensity, despite the immense physical challenge that such a limited pattern invokes. Meanwhile, his right hand sends forth a dazzling array of musical images: clanging bells as the train passes, the whistle blowing across the trestle and the rush of the cars as they pass on adjoining tracks. Like Jelly Roll Morton, Lewis’s approach to the piano was as a band in miniature, and it’s easy to imagine a big band’s brass section punching out the strong off-the-beat syncopations that Lewis plays with his right hand.

Reviewer: Thomas Cunniffe

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