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Railroad Earth stays on track

The Paradise, Boston, April 22, 2006

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Railroad Earth easily could be lumped in with all the other jam bands out there following the ghost of the Grateful Dead. But that would be cutting the band short because, while yes indeed they do echo the Dead at times, they have their own bluegrass-based musical chops which they aren't afraid to display either.

Touring behind a two-disc set, Elko, released in January, Railroad Earth's strong suits time and again were the mandolin playing of John Skehan and the fiddle playing of Tim Carbone. Andy Goesslng also spiced the songs with a variety of instruments including banjo, Dobro and acoustic guitar.

The band tended to play out the songs to their natural conclusion, such as the lively "Long Way to Go." The songs would tend to build steam and momentum without the group allowing the songs to drag on and on as some jam bands do, ultimately leading to boredom among the faithful. Time and again, Railroad Earth certainly made the songs sound fresh and lively. The sextet mixed it up between instrumentals and vocals, changing the pace just enough to keep it interesting.

While not great, Todd Sheaffer certainly sings well enough. He could have used a bit more charisma on stage to connect better with the crowd of about 375. He spoke little during the very generous 2-set, 140-minute show. He also seemed to get energy from the crowd, which got clapping along, causing Schaeffer to follow suit. Nothing wrong with that.

Railroad Earth may not yet to be as popular as some of their jam band mates out there on the touring circuit, but that doesn't mean this is an outfit lacking quality songs and musicianship. Far from it.