There is something magical about a Railroad Earth performance. Whether it’s their impeccable musicianship, their ability to tell a story, or just the energy of the fan base itself, Railroad Earth captures each and every theater they play, with the kind of performances that are made of legends. They sing of our nation’s changing landscape and social ills with a commitment reminiscent of Woody Guthrie, while interpolating instrumental timbres that could have been pulled from Celtic or Cajun culture. And as anyone who has caught them live will attest, their concerts are imbued with the fire-in-the-belly passion of straight-ahead, blue collar rock & roll. In their tenure, the band has packed large theaters and festival’s alike, drawing in fans from nearly every walk of life. From devout fans of Americana, bluegrass or just straight up guitar singed rock & roll there is something for everybody at a Railroad Earth show.
Railroad Earth is one of America’s greatest bands playing today, plain and simple. They sing of our nation’s changing landscape and social ills with a commitment reminiscent of Woody Guthrie, while interpolating instrumental timbres that could have been pulled from Celtic or Cajun culture. And as anyone who has caught them live will attest, their concerts are imbued with the fire-in-the-belly passion of straight-ahead, blue collar rock & roll. Then there is the newest album from the New Jersey sextet, which is the most cohesive embodiment of their myriad gifts to date—hence the decision to simply call it Railroad Earth—showcasing nine new selections that draw strength and inspiration from an acknowledgment of our shared past, while also embracing new ideas and celebrating diversity… just like America when she is at her best.
Like their fellow musical travelers, from Bob Dylan and Gram Parsons to Wilco and alt-country chameleon, Ryan Adams, Railroad Earth eagerly embraced change in pursuit of an aesthetic breakthrough. “It was time to do something different,” admits lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Todd Sheaffer. He and his band mates—violinist Tim Carbone, mandolin player John Skehan, multi-instrumentalist Andy Goessling, and drummer Carey Harmon, plus new bassist Andrew Altman—have spent nearly a decade refining their sound and modus operandi. This time, however, they elected to take some cues from their new A&R man, Michael Caplan (Allman Brothers Band, Los Lonely Boys, Keb’ Mo’), and change up their game “to get a fresh perspective.” The result is the band’s most compelling set to date; encompassing rousing ballads and string-band funk, wistful waltzes and quirky time signature folk.
“We have some great singers in this band, and we’ve always had a lot of background singing and harmonizing,” says Sheaffer. “This time we wanted to push it further and utilize that instrument more fully, so we spent a lot of time on the backing vocals.” It worked: Railroad Earth features some of the finest harmony singing committed to record. That emphasis on the vocals works to underscore Sheaffer’s emergence as one of the most compelling lyricists of his generation. His succinct yet distinctive imagery and feel for the unique cadences of language, with key turns of phrase repeated, as if in prayer, fuse with the music to yield far more than the sum of its parts.
Only history and the passing of time can truly make a landmark. The first reference to Plymouth Rock came over 120 years after the Pilgrims landed on the Massachusetts shores circa 1620. Nevertheless, those first settlers knew that one phase of their journey had ended and another begun. And so it is with Railroad Earth. It may fall to our children and grandchildren to validate the album’s longevity and influence, to file it alongside Patti Smith’s Horses or Neil Young’s Harvest as a record for the ages. But at the moment, anyone with ears should recognize its significance as a turning point in a great American story that is still unfolding.
Self-described as “High-Octane Rocky Mountain DanceGrass”, WhiteWater Ramble uses a simple recipe to craft it’s sound: start with bluegrass instrumentation, add drums, and finish with a boundary-less approach to grassing-up everything from disco house grooves to roots and Americana. The Colorado-bred quintet combines the elements of Mandolin, Fiddle, Acoustic Guitar, Upright Bass, Drums and Vocals to explore the musical boundaries of multiple genres to fuel their own mixture of original music and innovative cover song interpretations.