You might not think there’s a lot of room for various bluegrass jam bands. For most folks, that genre pretty much taxed out with String Cheese Incident. And though we do enjoy Yonder Mountain String Band every now and again, when we’re in the mood for some bluegrass jamming we consider ourselves Hobos.
There’s no ryhme or reason for this preference. But like any fan of Railroad Earth, we’re more than happy to cop to being a Hobo. They’re less druggie than SCI and way more talented that Yonder. Anyway, the band’s been kicking it since 2001, after lead singer Todd Sheaffer picked up the pieces from his former New Jersey band From Good Homes.
Not long after forming, Railroad Earth was playing national bluegrass festivals all over, notably Telluride. Since then, they’ve put out a few studio albums The Black Bear Sessions (2001, Bos Music), Bird in a House (2002 Sugar Hill), The Good Life (2004 Sugar Hill), and recently a very polished live album with Elko (2006, SCI Fidelity).
We always spin the live album. It just sounds better. The discursions from bluegrass, folk, celtic, Americana. You get a music stew, long extended sojourns that never feel long, never feel overwrought. Even with songs stretching ten or 15 minutes it’s possible to forget you’re listening to an album because you become entranced, lost in the tapestry they’re weaving.
Besides Sheaffer on vocals and acoustic guitar, you’ve got Tim Carbone on violin and vocals, John Skehan on mandolin and vocals, Johnny Grubb on upright bass (gotta love that!), Carey Harmon on percussion, and multi-instrumentalist Andy Goessling. You name it Goessling probably plays it: Acoustic guitars, banjo, dobro, mandolin, flute, pennywhistle, saxophones and vocals.
Truth be told it’s about time some people tried to reappropriate the term hobo and give it the love it deserves. Give these tunes a spin and tell me you don’t feel like doing some good ole fashion hippie dancing; or long to sit on the edge of a slow moving train with a bunch of strangers, shooting the shit, passing the time or a bottle or a cigarette until the sun crests below the horizon. I’ll just call’ya a stinkin’ liar.