"The follow-up to that whole thing, the biggest moment, was going back out to play with him in February as a band. He invited all of Railroad Earth out to play at this Mardi Gras show."
As an "added pat on the back," Lesh included two Railroad Earth songs in his first set. "He put together a journey that went from 'Cumberland Blues' into 'The Goat' from 'The Good Life,' back into 'Cumberland Blues' into 'Storms,' which is the lead-off track from our last CD, then winded it all up into 'Uncle John's Band.'"
The experience with Lesh encouraged Railroad Earth to be even more adventurous when improvising and segueing into other songs. It would prove useful when the band - who had released two studio albums on Sugar Hill - signed with Sci Fidelity for their next project.
Says Skehan, "We had been toying with the idea of a live record, and they stepped up and said, 'We'd like to do this, and we'd like to show you what we can do.' Having met, first a couple of the guys from String Cheese Incident and developing a little bit of a relationship - especially with Billy (Nershi) the guitar-player and lead singer and Keith (Moseley), the bass player - really just through picking backstage, that was the beginning of our relationship, and we did a walkthrough with everybody at Sci Fidelity and Madison House (publicity firm) and they're just very ambitious, nice people."
Railroad Earth hopes that "Elko" - recorded during the 2005 spring tour - will provide fans with a viable sonic snapshot of the band, "when it's freewheeling and improvising collectively."
For Railroad Earth, that live communication via instrumental interplay remains vital to its existence.
"Having been together and playing a lot, it's really wonderful to still be able to hit those moments," concludes Skehan. "A friend of mine once described it as, 'The nice place.' It's when you get that moment where everything's clicking, you're not conscious of what you're playing, and you're almost anticipating what the other person is going to play before they play it, but it's still a surprise. There's a Zen quality to it."