The City of New Orleans

Today’s post was written by Paul.

The Streamline Cannon Ball

Hello, Dear Acorns. It’s that time again for our train song series here on BPA. We start out with one of the most elite train songs in terms of chords, lyrics, and melody: “The City of New Orleans.” It even has clever, recurring key change. 🙂

As I understand, Steve Goodman wrote this song, an artist I somehow often confuse with John Prine and Arlo Guthrie. Guthrie was perhaps the first to popularize the song.

It has been covered by many people, including the Country Gentlemen. Appearing with me in the video is my friend Wayde Powell, III, this time on guitar. In one of our earlier train songs, Wayde appeared on banjo (…).

For this song, we maintained our standing “rule” for the train song series, which is one-take-only. I really have to hand it to Wayde: he knew what we were going to play only a couple of minutes before the camera started rolling. Of course, he had heard this song before, probably many times, but to my knowledge, it’s not something he ever played with a band or anything.

I tried to learn the words the night before and obviously didn’t quite succeed! 🙂 I added an extra F chord that Wayde didn’t expect to be included, but it didn’t throw him for a second. Though I missed a couple of chords (like going to E minor too early a few times late in the song), I don’t think Wayde missed any.

My favorite moments on the guitar are: when he chimes just after “I’m the train they call the City of New Orleans” in the first chorus (1:26); and the notes that he hits on the B string between 3:08 and 3:12. It messes with my mind when I realize that he hit those chiming notes spontaneously. That means that he had to know exactly what the notes are and exactly where to chime them, without searching or practicing. That’s not normal, folks. 🙂 Genius level stuff.

I hope you enjoyed this first train song. It’s truly a great song, even though we didn’t quite know it and just jumped in to see what would happen. As always, I’ll try to upload a different train song every weekend this month. Thanks for watching!


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  • Reply
    Angelyn McLain
    November 11, 2021 at 8:00 am

    I enjoyed that song!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 7, 2021 at 7:05 pm

    Does Wayde play a dobro or a slide steel. He is making some mighty good train sounds but imagine what he could do with a steel or glass slide on his pinky.

  • Reply
    Patricia A Small
    November 7, 2021 at 5:34 pm


  • Reply
    November 7, 2021 at 3:53 pm

    Paul and Wayde absolutely shredded it!!!!

    Great song played by two great guitar virtuosos.

    I look forward to the next train song. I hope you do The Wreck of the Old 97 again. It is my favorite train song because my Pa used to sing it while rocking me – and later his grandkids – to sleep. (I’ll be 80 my next birthday.)

  • Reply
    Sara Stewart
    November 7, 2021 at 1:21 pm

    BRAVO!!!!!! ENCORE!!!!!! I hope you can hear the foot stomps & handclaps of appreciation all the way from Alberta, Canada!!! This really brings memories of playing & singing with friends & family during the 1960s & ’70s.

  • Reply
    Judy Hays
    November 7, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    You just can’t beat a good train song! Enjoyed this so much – thank you both.

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    November 7, 2021 at 11:56 am

    Paul, you and Wayne really ripped that one. His noting complements yours perfectly and your vocals are always right on the money. Woody, Arlo and that bunch would be applauding as well.

  • Reply
    Mary Retaleato
    November 7, 2021 at 10:59 am

    Great job. I have seen Arlo do this song a few times, always a favorite

  • Reply
    Betty C Ledwith
    November 7, 2021 at 10:40 am

    I have in my years heard this song sung by many people. I heard it sung by one of my all time favorite singers in person, Willie Nelson. I thought he sung the best version until I heard this one. Wow! I have to give all of you an A+. I enjoyed this version and sure I will play it over and over. I had not heard this song in a long time and what memories it brought back to me. Thank you so very much for sharing this with all of us.

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    November 7, 2021 at 9:51 am

    In 1973, I went to a small bar in Miami where Steve Goodman was appearing. Of course, he sang “City of New Orleans” and played his guitar. I’ll never forget that night. Steve passed way too young, but he left us some incredible material.

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    November 7, 2021 at 9:45 am

    Great job on the song by the both of you!

  • Reply
    Tina Huffman
    November 7, 2021 at 9:02 am

    Most excellent!!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 7, 2021 at 8:47 am

    This post reminds me of “The City of Burnsides” one of, if not the, last steamboats on the upper Cumberland. It burned and sank at the docks in Burnsides, Ky about 1932. Meantime alongside the hill above town the Southern railroad carried passengers to New Orleans. I saw the end of train passengers on that line about 1960. The old railroad grade is now US 27 and the old town of Burnsides is under Lake Cumberland.

    I guess every generation has a comparable experience. I’m glad Goodman caught one such in haunting lyrics. And for those who have not yet lived it, there is a life lesson in there. Live intentionally.

    You two did a great job but I confess Paul your knowledge of music and music making goes way over my head.

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    November 7, 2021 at 8:41 am

    I love this song…it is gonna be in my head all day long!!… head needs that trip….please thank the boys for me….

  • Reply
    Nancy Johnson
    November 7, 2021 at 8:39 am

    Thank you! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing and hearing this. Well done.

  • Reply
    Joseph Mazurek
    November 7, 2021 at 8:25 am

    Wonderful song and loved your arrangement. Growing up in Chicago seeing Steve on Lincoln avenue in the windy city. John Prine sometimes preformed with Steve in the Chicagoland area both loved smelt fishing at Montrose avenue horseshoe together. Thanks Guys

  • Reply
    Colleen Holmes
    November 7, 2021 at 8:15 am

    Thanks Paul. The music got me moving this morning.

  • Reply
    Sallie the apple doll lady
    November 7, 2021 at 8:11 am

    You two were having just too much fun! I envy you being able to play and doing the fancy stuff so easily. What a gift! Thanks for sharing. And it’s nice to know you cover the blips so well that we can’t even detect them. Keep it up!

  • Reply
    Denise R
    November 7, 2021 at 7:57 am

    Awesome job!!!! This is such a classic song, one that I’ve heard all my life so it’s older than me!

  • Reply
    Dennis M Morgan
    November 7, 2021 at 7:54 am

    That is one of my favorite songs. When I hear it I want to take a trip somewhere. Paul and his friend did a really good job.

    Dennis Morgan

  • Reply
    November 7, 2021 at 7:52 am

    Paul your singing is always beautiful and Wayde showed out on his guitar. It’s a cold 29 degrees this morning in south central PA but the sun is coming out and Miss Cindy was right that was a peppy song to get us moving for this morning.

  • Reply
    Donna Brewton
    November 7, 2021 at 7:30 am

    Two cool dudes in dark specks !!!!
    In all my years first time to understand the lyrics. The train had something to say. Your buddy Wayde….. wow ! I think to say he “hit a few good licks” would work.
    Thanks for the good music this nippy ‘Sunday morning.
    We fell back in time this morning. How does that work ???

  • Reply
    Greg Church
    November 7, 2021 at 7:26 am

    My dad once told me that every little boy had a fascination with trains and that most never out grew . I guess that is the essence of train songs. The train song on the front porch today……. Wow!

  • Reply
    donna sue
    November 7, 2021 at 7:24 am

    One of my all time favorite songs! Paul and Mr. Powell were excellent! I had to watch the video many times before I picked up on some forgotten words in it. I love this song so much, and have listened to it so many times for as long as I can remember, that my brain filled in the blanks automatically where Paul hummed. I honestly never caught them until many views later. I love the spontaneity of the one-take rule for these train songs. The song El Condor Pasa, which you guys did in 2008, was so wonderful that to this day I do not like hearing any other version but your’s, even Simon and Garfunkel’s version does not hold a candle next to your’s. And now, Paul’s version of this song has knocked Willie Nelson off his throne – this is now my favorite! Thank you for another great song post!

    Donna. : )

  • Reply
    Sheryl A Paul
    November 7, 2021 at 6:50 am

    I completely enjoyed this, one of my favorute songs and you both did it proud!

  • Reply
    Martha Justice
    November 7, 2021 at 6:49 am

    Such talent !

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 7, 2021 at 5:32 am

    Wow, that was great! Paul, you said there was a couple of missed spots but I sure could not hear them. Wayde was great and it looked like he was having fun. I give this one an A+ for you both!
    Thanks for the peppy song on this cold Sunday morning!

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