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Published: 2011/02/02
by James Martin

Railroad Earth / Great American Taxi, The Catalyst, Santa Cruz, CA – 1/28

Great American Taxi joined Railroad Earth for six dates and their second to last show of the tour brought them to the Catalyst in Santa Cruz, before heading up to wine country. For Taxi it was their eleventh gig this year in what plans to be a busy schedule. Railroad Earth, having just released their self-titled album last fall, was on their West Coast leg of a two and a half month tour. Great American Taxi and Railroad Earth share a connection as Tim Carbone produced Taxi’s second album Reckless Habits so it was only a matter of time before the two would join forces and tour together.

Great American Taxi started the night off with their psychedelic honky-tonk infused blend of bluegrass, rock, and country playing a short but lively set. Vince Herman belting out “Dance boatman dance” before going into the old vaudeville number “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” had the crowd going with drummer Chris Sheldon and bassist Brain Adams providing a steady beat. The spirit of Gram Parsons lives on through this band, which is most evident in their tune “American Beauty,” as Chad Staehly’s electric keys and the twang from Jim Lewin’s Telecaster rang out. It was fitting when Vince Herman sang the Robert Earl Keen song “I’m Coming Home” as Santa Cruz is Lewin’s old stomping grounds. The line “life is good in Santa Cruz” got a cheer from the crowd as their town was mentioned. Staehly invited Tim Carbone to play fiddle on the fast moving “Runaway Train” and “Jack London.” To finish off Taxi’s set Andy Goessling joined in on sax on which added a nice touch to “Don’t Get No Better.” When you don’t think it can’t get no better, then it does.

It is difficult to categorize the music of Railroad Earth, which is fine – it doesn’t need one as the music speaks for itself. Starting right off with the first set, Railroad Earth’s feel good sound flowed through the Catalyst as Todd Sheaffer sang “Just So You Know.” Tim Carbone, already warmed up from earlier blazed away on the fiddle. During “Bird in a House” you could hear the audience singing along with Sheaffer and Andrew Altman digging deep on the double bass. As the first notes rang out from Andy Goessling’s banjo and John Skehan’s mandolin the audience was clapping along to “Colorado.” Railroad Earth’s songwriting can take you back in time which was the case with “Potter’s Field” the only song that was played off their new album of the night. The first set ended with the Irish sounding instrumental “1759” which had the band jamming along to Skehan’s Irish bouzouki.

The second started off with Carbone putting down the fiddle and picking up the electric guitar and Goessling’s playing two saxophones on “Hard Livin’.” The energy level increased in the second set as the band went into “Elko.” There was a rumble of the bass when drummer Carey Harmon and Altman began the ever popular “Warhead Boogie” and boogie they did as the band played it intensely. The crowd keep it up clapping when multi-instrumentalist Goessling’s flute started off then another sing-along with “Smiling Like A Buddah.” Jim Lewin joined the band for a slow psychedelic cover of “The Wheel” that ended the set. The crowd wasn’t going to let the evening end with that, bringing the band back on stage as well as Vince Herman joining for a stellar cover of The Band’s “Ophelia” for the encore, which that had everyone on stage and in the crowd smiling.

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