Bird in a Houseby Railroad Earth
Put the CD on, and it's not so much a sound heard once more as one that's completely reborn. In this case, that's the sound of the Gram Parsons-era Byrds. There's a fire, and sometimes frivolity in what Railroad Earth does that evokes more than the spirit, but without ever sounding like copyists; it's as if they've arrived at the same destination all by themselves, penning some glorious songs along the way, like the up-tempo "Drag Him Down," the spiritual quest of "Like a Buddha," and the fairly epic "Walk On By." But there's more going on, as you discover when you listen, with kalimba and clarinet in there somewhere, adding extra textures to the music. What they come up with can only be described as country-rock -- alt-country may be the moniker of choice these days, but the band's sound is more timeless, while at the same time utterly unique -- just cop the intro to "Like a Buddha," for example. Poppy enough to hold memorable choruses over rippling mandolins ("Mighty River"), and unafraid to make a small nod to Celtic territory ("Lois Ann"), it's a work of not only rare charm, but ageless beauty.
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Performance CreditsRailroad Earth Primary Artist
Buck Dilly Pedal Steel Guitar
Todd Sheaffer Guitar,Trumpet,Vocals
Tim Carbone Piano,Violin,Vocals
John Skehan Mandolin,Piano,Tuba
Carey Harmon Percussion,Cymbals,Drums,Vocals,Snare Drums
Andy Goessling Banjo,Clarinet,Dobro,Flute,Guitar,Ukulele,Penny Whistle,Vox Organ,Marxophone
Dave Von Dollen Bass,Valve Trombone,Vocals,Kalimba
Technical CreditsBulletboys Composer
Don Sternecker Engineer
Billy Baskette Composer
Railroad Earth Arranger,Producer
Mike Partridge Engineer
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Jamgrass music is turning a lot of heads these days, with its eclectic sounds that blend bluegrass and rock music. This mutated hybrid genre is building a large fan base, although some feel that many mu-grass bands and practitioners have yet to really deliver a signature sound. Railroad Earth, on the other hand, is a relatively new band fronted by Todd Sheaffer that is demonstrating some of the strongest songwriting, vocals, and instrumental pyroclastics to hit the jamgrass scene in quite some time. Their music has infused some new life into a genre that seemed to be getting rather tedious. Presumably this band takes their name from the Jack Kerouac poem "October in the Railroad Earth," an uplifting piece that begins with a meticulous description of a mad street scene. As Kerouac starts to hallucinate, one realizes their own place in the universe. Like Kerouac's free-blowing improvisational writing style, Railroad Earth's music is also visionary. Railroad Earth is comprised of musicians who once played in various Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey bands until they realized they shared common musical interests and came together. Lead singer/guitarist Todd Sheaffer was a founding member, front man and primary songwriter for the band, From Good Homes, who recorded for RCA and frequently opened for Ratdog. Fiddler Tim Carbone and multi-instrumentalist/banjo-player Andy Goessling were both founding members of The Blue Sparks from Hell, who toured the eastern seaboard for years to packed houses. Mandolinist John Skehan played, toured and recorded with a number of bluegrass and rock bands over the past few years. New Yorker Carey Harmon played drums and percussion with the regional touring band, The Hour. The youngest member of the group is 22-year-old Dave Von Dollen, upright bass player, who was enlisted right out of the New School where he was studying jazz. After a few rehearsals, Railroad Earth recorded a 5-song live demo that soon got them tours and engagements at such prestigious music festivals as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival and High Sierra Music Festival. They expanded this demo recording to a full highly-acclaimed album project called The Black Bear Sessions. This brings us to the present, and the buzz continues to swirl around this charismatic band. Railroad Earth has a Sugar Hill recording contract and the national release of their sophomore album, "Bird in a House" is due for national release on June 4, 2002. This album shows strong bluegrass influences, but Railroad Earth also folds in other tasty textural ingredients from Celtic, jazz, folk, and rock music on a 13-track original project where all but two songs run for 4-7 minutes apiece. Bird in a House begins with a raucous "Drag Him Down," which to my ears is slightly cluttered and could've been mixed a little cleaner. The album's title cut, an introspective Grateful Dead-like piece, follows and offers some flowing fiddle playing from Tim Carbone. Then, the train settles onto the tracks and pulls the listener into their musical groove. Another Sheaffer original, Like a Buddah, gets you feeling good and smiling just like the enlightened sage himself. "Pack a Day" is an up-tempo instrumental with a few interesting twists and turns along the way. "Mountain Time" slows the pace and tells a dreamy story of good feelings experienced living on mountain time, between the intertwining instruments. "Give that Boy a Hand" is another uplifting song that dynamically builds and retreats with banjo and fiddle. The bluegrassy "Peace of Earth" drives hard and is presumably sung by one of its composers, Von Dollen or Carbone. "Walk on By" is a ballad which features some dreamy pennywhistling by Andy Goessling and shows Sheaffer's vocals at their best. The flowing "Mighty River" puts one into a contemplative and reflective mood. A very nicely
I definitely thought this was a good album when I started listening. And each time I listened it got better and better. Now after about 50,000 listens to this album I am convinced it's a classic! Why can't I stop listening to this album????? ;)
About half the songs on this CD are really nice. I think its good work music, it keeps the blood going. I love Phish and Widespread panic, and i'd say a handful of these songs really rival the talent of the big names. I think this will grow on me, I've only played it twice so far.
Thank you all for the wonderful reviews that convinced me to buy this incredible album!! I was going to buy the new Nickel Creek CD and this was recommended. I'd never even heard of Railroad Earth, but your reviews convinced me to check it out. THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! I absolutely cannot take this album out of my player!!! Bird in a House is such a beautifully haunting song!! Mountain Time sends shivers down my spine!! And Like a Buddha is just so so much fun!! This is my favorite album in years!!
I saw Railroad Earth for the first time this year at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and knew instantly that they were onto something special. As a longtime festivarian, I'd always lamented the demise of New Grass Revival, and never thought another band would come along with their creativity and spirit. I can honestly say I know longer have those thoughts! Railroad Earth's new album, ''Bird in a House'' combines elements that range from ''Sweetheart of the Rodeo'' era Byrds, featuring Gram Parsons, to The Waterboys and from early 70's Grateful Dead (American Beauty era) to Dylan's ''Blood on the Tracks.'' All of this delivered with a decidedly modern twist. Nothing on this album sounds retro, just downright breathtaking! From the opening bluegrass romp of ''Drag them Down,'' through the lush beauty of the title track, to the world music vibe of ''Like a Buddha,'' every moment of this album is a joyous awakening, filled with some of the most highly original roots music sounds to hit the scene in decades. And if it's lyrics you love, wait until you lose yourself in songwriter Todd Sheaffer's world. His lyrics are definitely meant to be studied and discussed. I consider ''Bird in a House'' a classic that belongs alongside albums like Dylan's ''Blood on the Tracks'' and Springsteen's ''Darkness on the Edge of Town.''
The more I listen to this, the more I like it. It is blowing fresh air into a tired newgrass scene.
Thank God for Railroad Earth! I feel blessed to have found an album that is both musically adventurous and filled with stunning songwriting! I have not been able to take this CD out of my player since I first got it. Nor have I been able to bring myself to listen to anything else! I find myself listening and studying the lyrics over and over again just like I did when I first heard Bob Dylan. If Railroad Earth doesn't sell a million albums there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with this country!! With that being said, they probably won't sell a million.