Raiload Earth, House of Blues, Chicago, IL – 3/28
Railroad Earth took the stage Saturday night in Chicago at the House of Blues amidst a cold, wintry storm howling through the city. The snow, sleet and wind gusts were matched inside by a mix of eclectic bluegrass, celtic and rock n roll. Their two set performance was supported by the local band Split Lip Rayfield and also a guest appearance by violinist Allie Kral. A Railroad Earth show is a unique experience and no studio or live album can quite capture the existence that is RRE live.
The name, Railroad Earth, taken from a short story by Jack Kerouac could not be more appropriate. Their roots and bluegrass infused sound with their pastoral lyrics is an almost spiritual sound that transcends classification. It’s the type of music that spurns new genres and could be labeled anything from country to jazz. It is fair to say, if Kerouac were alive today, it would not be altogether surprising to spot him in the crowd.
While RRE's choice of venue was somewhat perplexing, as the generic House of Blues is in stark contrast to their persona, the boys from Stillwater, New Jersey put on an enjoyable show from the opening lines of their first song “Hard Livin’” to the encore “Railroad Earth." Todd Sheaffer’s warm vocals suited the band's song melodies and rich instrumentation quite well. Meanwhile, Andy Goessling, the group's multi talented guitar, banjo, dobro, mandolin, flute and saxophone player was a presence throughout the night and displayed his dual-sax technique on “Hard Livin’.” Another highlight came with RRE’s violinist Tim Carbone's exchanges with guest Allie Kral during “Little bit O’ Me”. Closing out the first set with Kral was the familiar “Cuckoo’s Medley” and the doubled violin added some pleasing tones.
The second set brought more satisfying melodies and familiar riffs. The group had an interesting take on the Dead’s “Mississippi Half Step” which fit their playlist theme of the evening. RRE’s music is easily accepted and even the most novice of fan can jump right in and dance along. Hearing their music for the first time is like meeting a friend of a friend who you immediately connect with, as their musical charisma is effervescent.