It’s difficult to write a “review” about a band that I love so much. There should be some conflict of interest law that prevents me from doing so. But, I’ll give it a try.
The first time I saw Railroad Earth, I didn’t actually see them, I only heard them. They were playing a late night set on some back woods stage at the Blue Ridge Harvest Fest in 2004. I was wandering the campgrounds listening and was blown away by how much music I was hearing all at once. There were a lot of notes flying through the sweet Georgia air that night, so I never made it over to the stage, but that amazing music really made an impression on me and I’ve gone to see them every chance I’ve gotten since.
I always feel lucky when a jam band of this caliber makes it down to San Diego. We seem to trade off our music scene for our perfect weather or something. I get a bit jealous when I look at all the shows that my Denver or San Francisco friends are going to see. To be fair, we do seem to be getting more and more good bands lately.
I was very excited that Great American Taxi was opening for RRE in San Diego. Vince Herman is always entertaining, to say the least, and I knew I could count on Some of the RRE boys showing up during the Taxi set. Taxi played a great set and , as predicted, Tim Carbone and Andy Goessling did make it on stage for a couple of tunes.
Railroad Earth came out strong with Mighty River followed by another big song Long Way to Go. That’s a lot of dancing to start the set! Then they sped it way up with Shockenawe Mountain Breakdown. Mercifully they slowed it down with Lone Croft Farewell, Little Bit O’ Me and Potter’s Field. Potter’s Field is one of the best songs off their last album. It’s the kind of song that takes me on a journey to the extent, that I no longer know if I’m in Southern California, The Isle of Man or 1885…Or 1759, which happens to be the name of the next tune. For 1759, John Skehan breaks out the monster sized mandolin that adds a darker and real heavy sound to this long instrumental jam. Everything Comes Together closes the first set.
The second set opened with The Jupiter and The 119. This new song seems like it could be a classic from a hundred years ago. It tells the story of the coming together of the Transcontinental Railroad. I know how it ends, but I still get all caught up in the drama of it all. Another thing that stands out in this song is the recent addition of electric bass to the band. Andrew Altman joined the band about a year ago and alternates between the stand up and electric. I am a big fan of the addition of Altman and the rich steadiness his bass provides.
Dancing time again with Give That Boy a Hand, then Dance around Molly>Dandelion Wine. In the next song, Black Elk Speaks, Skehan breaks out the monster mandolin again and Carbone, Shafer and Goessling trade in their instruments for electric guitars. This way different heavier sound complements the weight and gravity of this song’s lyrics.
Stillwater Getaway got the crowd jigging again followed by All Alone and Long Walk Home. Jim Lewin from Great American Taxi joined in on guitar on big sing alongs Head and My Sisters and Brothers. The band ended the show with a double encore of ‘Neath the Stars and Happy Song.
My friend Michael Trevers says “Old Deadheads never die, they just evolve into Railroad Earth fans” and I agree. Railroad Earth, with their well crafted songs, deep meaningful lyrics and their ever evolving, genre jumping and improvisational jamming are the band that I hope I can follow for a long time.