A Railroad will Run Through Telluride
It’s been since the summer of 2004 that Railroad Earth has been at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Why they haven’t been asked back since then is a mystery to all who really enjoy this band’s music, including myself. They have the bluegrass roots, some Celtic flavors, great songwriting, as well as some great, funky jams mixed in. They seem to be a perfect fit for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, known for it’s stellar progressive bluegrass/newgrass lineup, as well as a few curveballs of the non-acoustic fare every year. So why did it take so long for them to return? That’s not a question that I can answer, all I can say is that they are returning with a lot of momentum. One might use the analogy of a train?
Since forming, after informal pickin’ sessions, in 2001 they have put out 4 studio albums and 1 live cd and have toured heavily throught the US as well as the UK. The band’s live shows are where they truly shine. The musical texture formed by these 6 talented players is a perfect foundation for the delicate songs of guitarist/lead vocalist, Todd Sheaffer, and a starting point for any of them solo on top of. Their extended jams are tasteful, lately a bit psychedelic, yet they don’t stray too far from the heart of the song. As mandolinist, John Skehan, puts it, “Our M.O. has always been that we can improvise all day long, but we only do it in service to the song.” * This service to the song is quite different from most bands that are lumped into the overly-generalized genre of “jamband”. In staying with the song they have the effect of keeping the feel consistent throughout the jam that produces a very enjoyable experience for the music lover. The band ‘s heavy tour schedule has helped to cultivate a loving following of music fans spanning from all age ranges and music genres that continues to grow at a rapid rate as more and more are “tuned in”.
So again, why haven’t they been asked back to Telluride Bluegrass Festival since 2004? I don’t know the real answer, so for fun I’ll just speculate. First of all, the 2001 appearance was their very first gig. After sending in 5-song demo they were booked for the festival and headed out west without really stretching their musical legs. It could be that they didn’t play the best set. Perhaps the combination of new band chemistry, a long travel to CO from NJ, the anxiety of having your first gig in front of 10,000, and the thin air of Telluride had something to do with that. I could be that the promoters of the festival decided perhaps they weren’t quite Telluride caliber yet. Maybe 2004 wasn’t quite what they were lokin’for. Then again, maybe one of the players used Sam Bush’s personal Port-O-John and they were black-listed for awhile because of it. Like I said, this is only speculation.
Whatever the real reason for such a hiatus is, the fact is that they did get asked back for the 2009 festival and the timing couldn’t be more right. The band’s chemistry and playing is better than ever and they are currently in the middle of a spring tour through the west gettin hot and building up steam for the summer. They have progressively moved up to larger venues over the years and are beginning to regularly fill up some famous venues such as the San Francisco Fillmore and are scheduled to play Red Rocks Amphitheatre opening for the Allman Brothers Band in September.
2009 is gonna be a big year for Railorad Earth and the Telluride Bluegrass crowd is fortunate to have them rolling through at this point. They are schedued to play the closing slot on Friday night at the Fred Schellman Stage, as well as a sold-out Nightgrass show at the historic and legendary Sheridan Opera House. If you don’t have a ticket to the Nightgrass, be sure not to miss the mainstage appearance as it’s gonna be fun and folks will be “Smilin’ like a buddha”. I’ll see you at the Sheridan 😉
* from www.railroadearth.com/band/