This week’s Song of the Week installment comes courtesy of Breakthrough Banjo member Joe G.
Like some of the prior suggestions, “City of New Orleans” was familiar to me as part of American cultural iconography, but one I doubt I’d have ever considered for a banjo adaptation.
So I’m very glad to have been nudged to do so!
While it’s outside of the traditional banjo canon of material, it covers territory that fans of the traditional stuff can easily relate to: trains, the passing of the railroad era and, more broadly, a way of life.
Just about every fan of the five can relate to these sentiments, as we all attempt to balance a desire to change, grow, and create with the desire to stay rooted in and preserve what we love most about the past. The struggle between old and new is one that promises to never go away.
It’s also just a wonderfully crafted bit of songwriting, written by Steve Goodman in 1971 and first recorded by Arlo Guthrie (Goodman reportedly bribed Arlo with a beer so he’d sit down long enough for him to play it for him), and covered widely since (Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Chet Atkins,…).
In the end, just as old time music enthusiasts have rescued many a great tune from obscurity, the declining “City of New Orleans” rail line was ultimately saved by Amtrak (click here to book your ticket!)
Notes on the arrangement: I play the song here out of double D (aDADE, or gCGCD raised 2 frets).. Those familiar with the tuning may still find an opportunity to learn some novel fingering positions, necessary to grab some of those newfangled chords in this more “modern” banjo song. 🙂
City of New Orleans
aDADE tuning, Brainjo level 3-4
Click here for a current list of all the clawhammer songs and tunes currently available inside of The Vault
Notes on the Tab
In this arrangement, I’ve tabbed out the part I play in the banjo “solo,” as well as the vocal backup I play on the banjo while singing.
Notes in parentheses are “skip” notes – to learn more about skips and syncopated skips, check out my video lesson on the subject.
For more on reading tabs in general, check out this complete guide to reading banjo tabs.
PRIOR SONG OF THE WEEK EPISODES
- Episode 1: “Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow”
- Episode 2: “Gumtree Canoe”
- Episode 3: “Crawdad Hole”
- Episode 4: “Oh Susanna”
- Episode 5: “Freight Train”
- Episode 6: “Grandfather’s Clock”
- Episode 7: “Hop High Lulu”
- Episode 8: “Been All Around This World”
- Episode 9: “I’ll Fly Away”
- Episode 10: “Leaving Home”
- Episode 11: “Poor Orphan Child”
- Episode 12: “Mr. Tambourine Man”
- Episode 13: “Swanee River”
- Episode 14: “Big Sciota”
- Episode 15: “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms”
- Episode 16: “Darling Corey”
- Episode 17: “Battle Hymn of the Republic”
- Episode 18: “America the Beautiful”
- Episode 19: “Bury Me Beneath the Willow”
- Episode 20: “Way Out There”
- Episode 21: “New Slang”
- Episode 22: “I Saw the Light”
- Episode 23: “Amazing Grace”
- Episode 24: “Blowin’ in the Wind”
- Episode 25: “Yankee Doodle”
- Episode 26: “Budapest”
- Episode 27: “Wildwood Flower”
- Episode 28: “Paradise”
- Episode 29: “Mountain Dew”
- Episode 30: “Blue Tail Fly”
- Episode 31: “Otto Wood”
- Episode 32: “Down on the Corner”
Level 2 arrangements and video demos for the Tune (and Song!) of the Week tunes are now available as part of the Breakthrough Banjo course.