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Thursday, March 17

Railroad Earth 9:30 Club 3/11 & 3/12 Review and Photos

Railroad Earth
9:30 Club, Washington, DC
March 11-12, 2016

Railroad Earth is just one of those bands that does not disappoint… period. The level of musicianship among this uncannily talented group is nothing short of mind-blowing. The unmistakable, comforting vocals of Todd Sheaffer, the perpetual drumming and intoxicating backing vocals of Carey Harmon, the thumping upright and electric bass of Andrew Altman, and of course the brilliant multi-instrumentalism from Andy Goessling, Tim Carbone and John Skehan, combine to melt the hearts of all who come in contact with their music. Part of the reason they are so good is the fact that they had all been in separate touring bands before forming Railroad Earth. The formation of the band was the result of a group of already seasoned musicians coming together and realizing that they had something special. Fifteen years later, our beloved Railroad Earth shows no signs of slowing down, as they continue to bring their incredible music to adoring crowds across the nation. Once again, the band closed out their winter tour with a two-night stand at Washington, DC’s 9:30 Club, bringing all in attendance four sets of bliss.
Night 1 started off with a breathtaking rendition of “Seven Story Mountain” (one of their oldest songs from 2001’s The Black Bear Sessions), which included a mesmerizing jam, before picking up steam with “Bread and Water,” then back to The Black Bear Sessions with “Lordy, Lordy” and the fan favorite “Colorado,” bringing a wave of positive energy to the crowd. The band then took us forward into 2008 with a couple of tunes from Amen Corner, “Been Down This Road” and “Right in Tune.” They closed the first set with a heater, starting with the raging instrumental tune “1759” and grooving into a heavily hypnotic “Goat.” The second set began with another fan favorite, “Bird in a House,” which turned into a nice sing-a-long, as almost everyone in the building knew all of the words. The bouncy instrumental “Magic Foot” led straight into a hoppin’ bluegrass tune, “Luxury Liner.” As the crowd went nuts, the beautiful opening acoustic guitar of “Old Man and the Land” poked out through the applause. This laid back tune brings hope and positivity to all who wish for a simple life. Time to get deep and dark again with “The Cuckoo” followed by a flawless segue into the upbeat “Mission Man.” One last slow song in “Lovin’ You” before an epic string of tunes to close out the set. “The Forecast” grooved straight into “Tuba Mirum” from the suite in their latest album Last of the Outlaws, which built into the final movement of the suite, “Face With A Hole.” The whole suite is one big build on the album, and “Face With A Hole” is the climax, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Finally, the band rocked out “Standing on the Corner” before surprising a buzzing crowd with an encore of “Bringin’ My Baby Back Home.”

Night 2 kicked off with the positive and laid back “Storms,” assuring us that “all these storms I know will weather.” From there they dove straight into “Dance Around Molly,” putting the crowd on their feet, as they drove straight through “Dandelion Wine.” Dipping back into their latest album, “When The Sun Gets In Your Blood” sent waves of warmth through our veins, before slowing down with “A Day on the Sand.” The band dipped back a little ways in their catalogue for “Lois Ann” and then belted out “The Jupiter and the 119.” Andrew Altman kicked off “Where Songs Begin” with a super funky electric bass intro, as the hauntingly beautiful tune took hold. Another perfect segue led into a cover of The Waterboys’ “Fisherman’s Blues” during which the band invited Ferd Moyse of the Hackensaw Boys to join them on stage, resulting in a fiddle battle between him and Tim Carbone. Moyse stayed on stage with the band for a RRE classic in “Long Way To Go” to finish off a killer set.
The excitement in the air during set break was so thick you could just feel it! The band smoked the final set of the weekend, starting off with an uplifting instrumental tune, “420,” followed by a relative rarity in “Sing For Me.” Then things began to heat up. “The Hunting Song” shot some pep into the set, and “Drag Him Down” kept things rolling along. The band slowed things down a bit for “Just So You Know” and the beautiful “For Love,” but this was just the eye of the storm. The fun-loving “Monkey” set the stage for the looming onslaught and rocked straight into an absolutely phenomenal “Birds of America.” This is a tune that hits hard with every single note, and the band explored some really deep territory as they wound their way back to the comfortable chant of “Birds of America!” Wasting no time at all, the band flung into a fast-pickin’ “Fiddlee” to round off an amazing run of songs. They took a bit of a lull, musically, but their song choice kept the crowd in an uproar: a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Midnight Special.” The crowd joyously sang along, and then the band burst into a raucous “Head” to close out an epic second set. Railroad Earth had one last surprise in line for us, as they came out for an encore in the form of “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors… I was almost speechless.
The Bio page on Railroad Earth’s website says, “…musicians play music, and don’t necessarily worry about where it gets filed. It’s the writers, record labels, managers, etc., who tend to fret about what ‘kind’ of music it is.” This quote aptly describes the band’s approach to music. They are often lumped into the bluegrass, or “jamgrass,” scene due to their instrumentation and their affinity for that style, but they represent oh so much more than that. They have uplifting songs, fast songs, slow songs and dark songs, just like bluegrass, but there is something else there. Their melodies and harmonies seem to resonate in a unique way that is entirely their own, and their musicianship, both individually and as a band, is unmatched in today’s music scene. Needless to say, they absolutely rocked this two-night stand, no question about it, and they will continue to strike warmth into our hearts for many shows to come!

March 11, 2016
9:30 Club
Washington, D. C.
Support: OJR (Oliver John Rodgers)
Railroad Earth:
Set 1:
Seven Story Mountain
Bread and Water
Lordy, Lordy
Been Down This Road
Right in Tune
1759 -->
Set 2:
Bird in a House
Magic Foot -->
Luxury Liner
Old Man and the Land
The Cuckoo -->
Mission Man
Lovin' You
The Forecast -->
Tuba Mirum -->
Face with a Hole
Standing on the Corner
Bringin' My Baby Back Home

March 12, 2016
9:30 Club
Washington, D. C.
Support: Hacksaw Boys
Railroad Earth:
Set 1:
Dance Around Molly -->
Dandelion Wine
When the Sun Gets in Your Blood
A Day on the Sand
Lois Ann
The Jupiter and the 119 
Where Songs Begin -->
Fisherman's Blues (A)
Long Way To Go (A)
Set 2:
Sing for Me
The Hunting Song
Drag Him Down
Just So You Know
For Love
Monkey -->
Birds of America -->
Midnight Special
Roadhouse Blues
(A) with Ferd Moyse on violin

Words and Photos: Ragin' Randy Harris

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