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Louisa's song Steel Rails has touched so many people.  Here's a sample of responses to the song:

Steel Rails drawingIt was during a show she did at our State Fair (10 years ago now), that I first heard anyone sing "Steel Rails", and having been a (part-time) hobo myself, your song did, and still does have special meaning for me. At the time, however, Becky Schlegel had only her "This Lonesome Song" CD for sale, a recording she did with the band True Blue. But I didn't see "Steel Rails" among the tracks, so I didn't buy it that day (later, naturally, I got a copy and did appreciate it for the bluegrass songs and Becky's fabulous vocals). Following her rendition of SR, Becky had mentioned that she liked the song after hearing it sung by Alison Krauss, so that sent me looking for the AKUS CD it was on. That turned me on to Alison's music, and from there on I was a devoted fan of both Becky and Alison.
-Steel Rails fan

Steel Rails drawingGreat song to begin the new year with...strength, inspiration, optimism, and resolve...thank you, Louisa Branscomb, for such an awesome song that has been in my heart since I met you!!!
-Kim Cerese Garzone Jan. 1, 2012

 

Letter from a combat veteran, thirty years later...

Dear Louisa,

In the early 70's there was a young bluegrass band with a female banjo player that played at the club that I went to every now and then in Winston-Salem, NC.

That band played a song that, as a young man just back from Vietnam and trying to adjust to the "world", took my heart. It was called "Steel Rails". We would ask them to play it over and over again - and they did.

That song remained etched in my mind and soul. It showed me that I was not alone in my feelings. It allowed me to find my place in the world of loneliness of the vets
of that era and it helped me progress to a successful and fruitful life. Over all the years, I never forgot that beautiful, plaintiff melody and remembered all the words to the chorus.

I moved on and I never heard it again --- we did lots of "modern" music in those days...

When I heard Alison Krauss sing it one day, I was pleasantly surprised, and it took me back again to those young singers and those days.

Lately, I have thought about how that song affected me and so I looked up the songwriter, the young woman who played and sang there in Winston-Salem, with her group, Boot Hill. I found your web site and I am sending you this note out of the blue because ....

I just want to thank you for your talent and your ability and your grace.

Now, as I enter another new phase of life, my retirement, I am working on playing guitar myself, and it is a great pleasure to learn to play it myself. I think of that line, "I'm looking up ahead to keep my mind from turning back..." and all the years those notes and images have shown the way.

Thank you for touching my life. Someone out there is much the better because of you.

God Bless You,
Jim B.

 

You're Good, But You're no Louisa Branscomb

Once in about 1998 a picked up a guitar to sit in a few minutes in a hall jam session at SPBGMA, the kind of typical jam where nobody knows each other, and everyone jumps in. Someone suggested Steel Rails, and I kicked it off and sang it. Standing next to me on the outside of the circle was a woman who was commenting on things, partying and having a good time. When we finished she volunteered, "You're good, but you're no Louisa Branscomb!" It was a compliment, I think...?

Louisa, I was so glad to meet you finally, though I feel I've known you forever since I sing Steel Rails! And now we've written some of our own! Here is a special letter from a Steel Rails fan in Minnesota....

- Becky Schlegel