The duo started by recording Leadbelly's The Midnight Special at New York's Union Station before hitting the tracks for a marathon 2,728-mile railroad recording trip from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles.

Shine a Light: Field Recordings From the Great American Railroad features train-inspired covers of songs by Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, the Carter Family, Woody Guthrie, and Gordon Lightfoot.

Bragg and Henry recorded their album's songs in hotel rooms, train cars, and loading docks over the course of four days, with the album's final track, Lightfoot's Early Morning Rain, recorded outside Los Angeles' Union Station at dawn.