When a band is on hiatus, you get times where the high level of intensity stays moderately average, and then you get those shows where the immeasurable musical magic occurs, and causes you to wonder when this band will reach its best moments… I hope we haven’t seen it yet, although this show could qualify very much so, with this being the fourth out of the five shows Railroad Earth has played with new bass player Andrew Altman.
While I can account for the playing was right on obviously by hearing, I can also account for his comfort level being a very huge contributor to that statistic. In fact, it seems that he has fully gone into Railroad Earth mode, and is now ready to face any venue, any place, any crowd, and will continue to wow the old and new fans of Railroad Earth. Toads Place was jam packed with a mix of college and older folks.
The opening band; Toubab Krewe had made an awesome upbeat raging impression on the crowd of hipsters, however, I wasn’t able to catch their whole set, was backstage for some of it, but they were on top of things as well, contributing to that progressive positive vibe that Railroad Earth continued. The band took the stage around 10:30, and started off with “Walk Beside Me”, which was a smooth slow grooving song that set the level on a high bar. I’d say while “Walk Beside Me” brought the thunder; “Reubens Train” brought the lightning. A few songs later, we got a misty textured version of “The Cuckoo”, which then brought on “Bird In A House” which everyone sang along to, and taking in the breath taking harmonies from Cary, Todd, and Timmy. Next being the ever so psychedelic “The Forecast” that was up there with one of the best versions of the song the band has pulled off. They brought the full package of a psychedelic background, with a jazz-rock lead that makes this band so unique. Then closing off the set with a high energetic “Stillwater Getaway”, which displayed Andrew Altmans eye catching bass solo, which brought the crowd to a full roar, while he had as much fun as I’ve seen him have. Closing out this decent first set was “Cold Water” which was enjoyable and made me notice Johns mandolin playing, and Timmy’s fiddle playing as well. An average first set, with its moments, but wasn’t anything extraordinary.
The second set was what made this night remarkable, because it showed all the different sides of Railroad Earth. The “For Love” to begin it all was very pleasant, and had that hypnotic melody that their version of this Robert Earl Keene song often has. While the crowd was still entranced from “For Love”, we got a song I had asked to hear, “Just So You Know.” One of my favorite Railroad Earth songs, and is one of the most enjoyable songs to sing along to, while dancing radiantly, in your own little world, interpreting the staggering lyrics on your own. I felt like the band was really building off the crowd, at least it was notable. Afterwards, “Lonecroft Ramble” which is a John Skehan instrumental off of Amen Corner that is very glowing. Then, “Been Down This Road” providing a slow and serious feel to the vibes, that usually only happens with this and a few other songs. Todd’s lyrics bring it home for this song, and are very close to most people who have tried to understand the lyrics in their own lives. On to the power trio. “Goat” was definitely the best version of the song I have gotten to witness, with the help of Justin from Toubab Krewe on the Kora. The Kora is a very beautiful and “twingy” sounding instrument, in which you must sit down and have it stand on your lap, while you pick away. I had seen John Skehan trying out the Kora, and his description of that it’s a beautiful instrument is very true. I feel that the Kora brought “Goat” justice, one because the instrument fits the jam-filled and bold song very much, and Justin’s playing is beautiful. Not much more I can say about this song as it was one for the ages.
Next, another song I was hoping to hear, “SHJ” (Super Heady Jam) aka “New Jam”. This song isn’t called Super Heady Jam for nothing, because this song has this inviting high melody, but then has that funky beat provided by the one and only Carey Harmon and Andrew Altman. Conversations between Timmy, Andy, and John Skehan occur, which shows how much talent this band has. I To end the 2nd set, we got the one song I haven’t seen live, except for the Penns Peak soundcheck; “Mom I Am A Mess”. A powerhouse funky From Good Homes song that Railroad Earth brings their own bluegrass jam flavor to. The encores included a memorable “Wayfaring Stranger” and an animated “Bringin My Baby Back Home”. A great night of music, and for that, I thank Railroad Earth.