Paul Pena ‘New Train’

Posted 04 Mar 2014 in Albums of 1973, Albums of the 70s


Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#910 in the Series)is Paul Pena, New Train

New Train is the debut release and the “lost record” from blind blues singer Paul Pena. Recorded in 1973, the album was (for a reason known only to the musical gods) shelved until its first proper release in 2000, and is now considered one of the great unearthed Soul-Blues albums.

With a voice that floats somewhere between Lenny Kravitz and Lou Rawls, and a vibe that rolls down The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Croce and Bonnie Raitt train track with a side trip down the Joe Cocker Highway, New Train does not show its age at all, and sounds as if it could have been recorded yesterday, not some 40 years ago.

From the opening autobiographical, hand clapping track “Gonna Move” that features an old school soul vocal turn and some down home Clapton style guitar licks, the head scratching wonderment begins with the ultimate question never really being answered as we may never know the ultimate reason as to why this record was a “one and done” Harper Lee like artistic endeavor.

The title track has a real gospel feel to it complete with backing choir, and sounds as if could have been a featured song on the Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen road tour, and “Venutian Lady” could have made an appearance on Workingman’s Dead, which is not just a simple coincidence as Jerry Garcia plays pedal steel on the track, and Dead friend Merle Saunders joins the party on keyboards. This diverse transfer from style to style is done so seamlessly that your ears will likely not take notice until the albums end when they scream “hit me again bartender” and you play it again Sam as you undoubtedly will do after completing your virgin listen.

The real centerpiece of this record is Pena’s original version of Jet Airliner. This version has all of the heart and soul that the more famous Steve Miller version lacks, and eventually ended up on Book of Dreams courtesy of Ben Sidran the producer of New Train who was also a member of The Steve Miller Band. The song “Cosmic Mirror” even though it seems a bit out of place on this set,it is no less exceptional with an almost pitch perfect Jimi Hendrix vocal on a bed of equally brilliant fret work showing off some seriously good guitar chops.

The ballads introduced here arepaul_home3 Otis Redding worthy, with “Let’s Move and Groove Together” and the seemingly autobiographical “Indian Boy” as standouts, the country tinged “Taking Your Love Down” could have been another monster hit for Jim Croce, and “A Bit of All Right” feels like it could be a Joe Jackson tune. There is a pleasant surprise around every corner of this winding road.

A blender full of intoxicating tunes, New Train would have desert Island disc written all over it had Paul Pena been a more widely recognized artist. As it is, it is a lost classic. At the end of the day, frequent listening sessions of this album will leave you a little bit unsettled. You are left with the feeling that there is more to be said here, and the work is not yet done. Perhaps the answer lies in the opening lines of “Taking Your Love Down,” the final track on the album.

When I’m walking along this road across this desolate country, I got a hundred things to do before I’m leaving.”

I got a thousand years and a million tears packed into one lonely week of life which you can do so much with your touch, with your feeling.”

And then again, maybe not. Sometimes questions require no answer. Let’s just sit back and enjoy.

— Walt Falconer (See Walt’s Website, The Falcon’s Nest!)Please-visit-and-LIKE-our-facebook-page

Track Listing

All songs written by Pena except as indicated.

  1. “Gonna Move” – 4:31
  2. “New Train” – 4:53
  3. “Jet Airliner” – 5:42
  4. “Wait On What You Want” – 3:28
  5. “Venutian Lady” – 4:43
  6. “Cosmic Mirror” – 5:23
  7. “Let’s Move And Groove Together” (Johnny Nash) – 4:13
  8. “Indian Boy” – 4:37
  9. “A Bit Of All Right” – 3:43
  10. “Taking Your Love Down” – 2:52


  • Paul Pena – guitar, piano and vocals
  • Ben Sidran – piano and organ
  • Harvey Brooks – bass guitar
  • Gary Mallaber – drums and percussion

Additional Personnel

  • Jerry Garcia – pedal steel guitar on “Venutian Lady” and “New Train”
  • Merl Saunders – keyboards on “Venutian Lady” and “New Train”
  • The Persuasions – background vocals on “Gonna Move”
  • Charles Greene – background vocals on “Let’s Move and Groove Together”
  • Arthur Adams – guitar on “A Bit of All Right”
  • Dave Woodward – saxophone on “Cosmic Mirror”
  • Nick DeCaro – arranged strings
  • The Funky ladies – additional background vocals










Posted by Larry Carta

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