Missed Train Blog

Read about the music on Joe & Eric’s Album the Missed Train Blues.

Roo Chase

posted October 17, 2013

“Roo Chase (Jumpin’ Joey)” was written to showcase the newly released line of low tunings by Hohner and to give a nod to the amazing country of Australia. I played this on a low “G” Thunderbird Marine Band and was attemping to come up with a melody that conjured images and the unique sounds from down under. I thought that the droning effect that can be achieved by playing the Fox Chase/Lost John groove was the perfect starting place. The melody is played using lots of various split intervals. The spring (boi-ing) sound is also played on the same harp. Just need to get those lower reeds moving and then do the same thing with your mouth that you would do when imitating a spring sound while playing a jaw harp. This song is dedicated to our Aussie friends, Neil Graham, Rod Vervest, Jim Conway and Trevor Rabey. JF

This is one of my favorite songs by Joe on “Missed Train Blues”. I used an unusual guitar tuning DADGBD (bass to treble) to get a droning low bass tone. I used a slide to play the melody while keeping the bass going with the right hand thumb. Joe had a strong vision for the song and the arrangement here so I just tried to enhance what he had already conceived. EN

Travelin’ Shoes

posted October 14, 2013

“Travelin’ Shoes” was mostly written in a hotel room in San Paulo before playing at a festival there organized by Flavio Guimaraes and Thiago Cerviera. I was attempting to come up with something along the same lines as the Cannon’s Jug Stompers tune with Noah Lewis, “Going To Germany”. This was my second time in Brazil and I was left most inspired by the kindness that I was shown while visiting there. This tune is played on a low “F” Thunderbird Marine Band, but in 1st position. My dear friend Paul Messinger was on me about the importance of writing bridges in my songs. Thanks for staying on me Paulie. This is dedicated to Flavio, Thiago, Toyo, Walenia, and our friends in Brazil. JF

“Traveling Shoes” is the only song on the CD that I recorded without finger picks. The bare fingers on the strings give a different tone and also allow me to snap and slap the strings in a way that I can’t achieve with picks. My biggest inspiration for this tune is the funky guitar playing of Charley Patton’s on his recording of the song Elder Green. EN

Titan’s Blues

posted October 9, 2013

“Titan’s Blues” was actually written by my wife during the time that I played with Anita Siegel Drendel in a duo called “On The Mainline”. It came from the frustration of not understanding the lyrics of the Blind Willie Johnson song “God Moves On The Water”. Since Eric & I were scheduled to record 100 years after the actual sinking of the Titanic, it just seems obvious that the song needed to be included. The lyrics are 100% accurate according to Michelle’s research. Can’t easily explain the harp part you hear. I sat down trying to come up with an instrumental section that felt like the ocean and what you hear is what came out. The steam-ship whistle heard at the beginning and the end actually was lifted from a live recording of Don Les playing at a SPAH festival, given to me by Windy City Harmonica Club member and friend, Ed Mossner. Don was fooling around playing all sorts of novelty effects and sounds and this stood out. It is actually quite simple to play, exhaling on holes 1 & 2 of a low “C” Thunderbird Marine Band harmonica. It is the first song I recorded with Eric in 3rd position. The instrumental sections are all played live using tongue split intervals as wide as eight holes. This is dedicated to the 1,517 lost lives. JF

For “Titan’s Blues” I play in a D minor tuning. DADFAD (bass to treble). I use the slide to add to the mysterious feeling of the tune. EN

Live Every Day

posted September 30, 2013


“Live Every Day” is a one chord boogie inspired by the guitar playing of Magic Sam & John Lee Hooker. I find that when I play a song with in this style it has to have a lot of soul, groove and feeling to get across. I wanted this tune to be upbeat and have a lot of energy and forward motion. Joe plays some smokin’ amplified harp on this one that really cranked it up several notches. EN

“Live Every Day” is the only song I played amplified on this session. It came out of the last studio session and I felt like it really burned! We were really locked in tight and feeling it. I was in Chicago Blues mode and using the blues scale and trying to burn it up. It is also one of the rare times that I used a standard “D” harp. Aside from keeping the groove, one of the challenges of conquering a single chord song like this was figuring out where it most appropriate to exhale! JF

Ballad of the Peg Leg

posted September 17, 2013


“Ballad Of The Peg Leg” was the greatest challenge for me to write on this CD. My initial idea was to use the Old Time melody that Peg used in his tune, “Reuben” and use it to tell another story when I realized that there was likely no better story to be told than that of Peg Leg Sam himself. I wanted it to come across like the folk song about the legend of John Henry. The difference was that 99% of this story is true! That is not me on the second harmonica but the Original himself, Eric Noden. The harmonica parts are all played on low “F” Thunderbird Marine Bands in the key of “A” or more precisely, “Am”. Once again I, along with Eric are using the 5th position. The accompaniment part that Eric plays is uniquely special. It’s actually a slow Fox Chase/Lost John type of harp groove played with hole #2 exhaling as the root note. I’m hopeful that more folks will become aware of Peg’s amazing talents through this song. This is dedicated to Peg Leg Sam and Chief Thundercloud and also to the memory of my friend and Peg fan, Steve Parton. JF

It took a lot of concentration and breath control to play the very simple rhythmic harmonica riff that I do throughout the song. It always amazes me how much more difficult it is to do something simple and keep it steady than to play a lot of notes. I also enjoyed Joe’s story telling about an under-recognized great of the harmonica. EN

Love Gone Bad

posted September 5, 2013


Many of my favorite blues songs focus on the topic of relationships gone wrong. The strength of these emotions makes a powerful elixir for the blues. Some tunes that come to mind in this genre are “You Don’t Have to Go” by Jimmy Reed and “The thrill is gone” by BB King. Musically this is basically 12 bar blues shuffle in the Key of D with a few unusual twists. This song is in the unusual guitar tuning of DADGBD (bass-treble). This creates some unusual chords and tones that aren’t usually available. EN

My inspiration comes from Big Walter Horton. He was the king of dropping those “chord bombs” throughout a song. I came to the conclusion that he is the greatest overall diatonic harmonica player as evidenced by his range of head tone, hand tone, dynamics and throat tremolo. I also used a tin can to get a bit more of a hollow tone quality. Thanks to Nick Malle. One of my personal favorite parts of the song is the sound I got during the solo where is sounds like the reed is going to disintegrate due to the aggressiveness of the attack. Just attempting to capture some of the Horton sound. I know I have a long way to go. JF

The Grind

posted July 17, 2013

I wanted to write a really depressing song and thought that the topic of spending your life working at a job you hate would do just fine.  I sure have met plenty of folks who have experienced this.  I am happy to say that this is not my personal story.  I’m hopeful that younger folks will find this song as an encouragement to go out and chase down their dreams.  I did!  The harp inspiration comes from the cool little harp breakdown that Willie Brown plays in the movie Crossroads when he finds out that Lightnin’ Boy is going to come for him in the morning.  I think it was played by Juke Logan.  I also remember hearing Jim Liban do something on one of his earlier recordings that gave me an idea for the instrumental bridge section.  The chord rhythm comes from the Mississippi delta player Johnny Woods.  Getting this chord groove down has been a key element in accompanying Eric on many upbeat delta type tunes.   JF

This is a good example of a driving delta blues style tune. The guitar stays on a E chord throughout  never changing to another chord. The right-hand thumb drives the beat with a heavy thump. Inspirations for this songs guitar part include Mississippi Fred McDowell and Charley Patton and Robert Pete Williams.  EN

Missed Train Blues

posted February 25, 2013

This is the song about the train that Joe and I missed when traveling from Strasbourg to Colmar in France. I wish I could say it’s because we arrived late at the station but we in fact were there with plenty of time to spare. After a couple drinks at a cafe in the station we decided to head toward the track where the train was leaving from. As we approached the track we were trying to find the right numbered car to avoid dragging our heavy luggage and instruments from car to car inside the train. Next thing we knew the train doors closed and the train sped out of the station right on time. When writing this I tried to give it a relaxed urgency to the song. I think Joe’s train rhythm is the perfect undertone for the story. Played in the the key of E in standard guitar tuning. On this recording I used a wood bodied Hohner Essential Roots guitar EN

I love the sound of harmonica chords! What magic they have. I am always amazed that those same chords are capable of recreating the power and enormity of a train better than any other instrument that I have ever heard.  What an irony that it comes from such a small instrument. We experimented with a couple types of rhythms for the harmonica and settled on what you hear.  The song is in “E” and I’m using a Low “E” Thunderbird Marine Band almost always playing the train chordal rhythm on the exhaling chord. This is quite contrary to the way that I teach the train imitation which is usually a balance of inhaling and exhaling. The rhythm comes from the tongue articulating “tuk-kuh-tuk-kuh” and phasing sound comes from the careful opening and closing of the hands. The solo is an extension of what I picked up from Jazz Gillum, Gwen Foster and other players that where known to use true octaves generously. I love the cool tension created by using bending with the octaves.  The only player that I can recall using it often was an obscure player called Jim Couch who recorded a record in the 1920’s on Okeh. Can’t say it inspired me but I can say that hearing it kinda hints that there is nothing new under the sun.  JF

Fat Cats & Thin Dogs

posted February 18, 2013

I wrote this tune with a ragtime blues feel. Musically it’s a tribute to some of the greats of the East Coast Piedmont blues style including Rev. Gary Davis and Blind Boy Fuller. The Piedmont style tends to use more sophisticated chord progressions associated with ragtime and tent show music. The verse part uses a common 6-2-5-1 progression used in many traditional tunes from the 20’s and 30’s. The chorus ventures into a minor key to add to the drama.  The song itself is my take on the timeless qualities of greed.  I’d like to think this song could have been written about present times or the past. Played in standard tuning key of C and A minor. EN

I was trying to pay homage to the Gastonia North Carolina player, Gwen Foster.  Gwen also played guitar while playing the harmonica simultaneously in a rack.  What an amazing talent he was!  I have used the usual Fosteresque tongue shakes and growling sounds for the melody.  The verses use the II, VI, V, I chord form in the key of “C” and I found that by using a harmonica in the key of “C” and “D” I could play those four chords accordion style.  Audiences seem to be fascinated with the act of holding two harps at the same time.  As of this writing, I have not dropped one yet.  The melody and bridge section are all played on the “C” harp.   JF

If You Call Out

posted January 21, 2013

I was hot on writing a vintage style gospel song with lyrics and a melody that made it as easy as possible for everyone to catch on and sing along.  I think that the melody only has 4 different notes in it.  Cajun music is a growing passion of mine, especially since adopting the Cajun musical wizard Jerry Devillier as my brother and friend.   Just seemed to work out to give it this flavoring.  A key to understanding the harmonica is to know that it is actually cross harp playing with no bending.  I am almost always playing tongue split intervals of 3, 4 or 5 holes using a “G” harp.  I’m also using an “A” harp during Eric’s solo to play the “V” chord.  I also had a vision that the song should have the energy found in a country church service.  Eric’s kazoo did a great job of capturing this energy and he just keep on running with it.  There are no overdubs.  This is for Jerry Devillier and Jasper and Madeleine Manual.   JF

I played the guitar and kazoo with a jug band flavor on this one  I imagine this might be what it would sound like if the Memphis Jug Band sat in with some traditional Cajun musicians. The guitar is tuned to open D tuning DADF#AD.  EN


posted Tuesday December 4, 2012

The lyrics to this are somewhat stream of consciousness but the Waterfall verse was written first and informed the feel of the song. This tune is based on a Mississippi groove. It is essentially a one chord Mississippi boogie in the style of Dr. Ross. Originally a native of Tunica Mississippi Ross moved to Detroit in 1954 to work for General Motors in Flint, Michigan. Along with John Lee Hooker He was one of the proponents of the raw and exciting Mississippi blues sound. While rhythmically similar to swing and urban blues the Mississippi boogie has an unpolished and gritty attitude that makes it unique. The guitar is in open D tuning (DADF#AD) played with a slide EN

This is my harmonica attempt to recreate Dr. Ross.  He was one of the many harp players who was recorded in Memphis by Sam Philips of the famous Sun records.  The good Doctor was mainly a disciple of John Lee Williamson, but this particular boogie harp groove seemed to be unique to his style.  Almost a post war type of Fox Chase groove.  Where I stray the most is during the playing of the melody.  “G” harp   JF

Bird Song  

posted Monday October 15, 2012

This song goes out to my friend Jon Stravers who knows more about birds than anyone I’ve ever met.  Thanks Jon for taking me out in the backwaters of the Mississippi River near McGregor, Iowa to observe the hawks. This tune uses mainly one chord on the guitar along with a driving rhythm. I wrote this tune with Brownie McGhee’s guitar playing in mind.  Brownie always kept a rock solid rhythm on the guitar with his right hand thumb that was the perfect foundation for the harmonica style of his musical partner Sonny Terry. My guitar is in standard tuning and the song is in the key of E-EN

This is my harmonica attempt to recreate Sonny Terry in all his glory.  Maybe some day I will find the inspiration to vocalize some of the various bird calls instead of the usual dog barks and whoops that is a staple of Sonny’s playing.  Sonny’s playing is so important to me that I would find it hard to put out a CD without at least one song using his distinct style.  It should be understood that the harp part is actually mostly improvised.  “A” harp  –JF

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