Monday, March 06, 2006

Railroad Earth, Elko

This weekend I was able to spend a lot of time listening to Railroad Earth's recent live release Elko in a couple of different settings and I'm not sure I can express how impressive (and good!) it is without throwing out a ton of lofty adjectives that won't really mean anything -- besides that I know a lot of synonyms for "incredible" and I won't hesitate to apply them liberally to this album.

Over the course of Elko's two discs, RRE gets ample opportunity to play with the conventions of roots music and it's all sweet. At times I find them a lot more Grateful Dead ("The Hunting Song," "Elko") than Garcia/Grisman, which is a welcome change of pace from the traditional bluegrass form -- which I like and respect, but am not generally over the moon about. I find that I like that I like roots music, more often than I actually like roots music (if you follow me).

The presence of Carey Harmon's drum kit is the thing that sets them apart. The percussion allows them to go places with the music that other bands can't get to given the limitations of the instrumentation. Songs like "Warhead Boogie" and "Like a Buddha" legitmately find a groove and don't let up. This characteristic of their music might perhaps be the most vital reason RRE has developed its extensive following in the live music scene.

Todd Scheaffer's songwriting also stands out. The title-track paints a vivid picture of the town where truckers, drifters, poor boys and boozers alike pass through in the night. This month's issue of Relix magazine has a great feature on the band (unavailable online) that describes the tune:

It was the band's many trips out to California that inspired the road tale from which Elko takes its name. One of the group's preferred stops on its way home from the High Sierra Music Festival, Elko, California, is a funky little slice of Americana, a Nevada-California bordertown that's home to the annual cowboy poetry convention and a vaguero-themed casino where a weary Railroad Earth can score a hotel rooms for 25 bucks and drink and gamble all night. "Poor boys and gamblers / Road dogs and ramblers /Shutting it down for the night," Scheaffer sings on his tribute to the town.

From Elko (an amazing value if you have an eMusic account by the way):
Railroad Earth || Long Way to Go
Railroad Earth || Like a Buddha

Via the band's website:
Railroad Earth || Mighty River (live)
Railroad Earth || Elko (live)
Railroad Earth || Head (live)

Of course, I get the chance to see them live on Wednesday night; stay tuned for a full review on Thursday.

(Photo: C. Taylor Crothers 2005)
(Songs are hosted by and will be live until they have been inactive for 30 days. Songs are for sampling purposes only, please support the artists whenever and however possible.)

1 comment:

wyominghags said...

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