Railroad Earth

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Railroad Earth comes back to Colorado for second straight New Year’s Eve

:: Railroad Earth ::
:: Ogden Theatre :: December 29-31 ::

By Timothy Dwenger

While Colorado is home to countless amazing bands from a wide variety of genres, there are some bands that stop here for their first time and just seem to blend in to the cultural fabric like they have been here from the beginning. Georgia’s Widespread Panic is one, Vermont’s Phish is another, and now it’s really starting to look like New Jersey’s (yes, New Jersey) Railroad Earth is on a similar path.

Sure, it probably didn’t hurt that the band’s first album, The Black Bear Sessions, featured a banjo-heavy track called “Colorado” that glorified summer in the mountains, but there is much more to it than that. This is a band that, on the strength of a five track demo, landed a main stage slot at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival without more than a few shows under their belt. To make the story even more compelling, they blew the crowd away that afternoon high in the San Juan Mountains and launched themselves into a future that no one was expecting.

“It just kinda happened,” said guitarist and lead singer Todd Sheaffer in a recent interview with The Marquee as he walked the streets of Cleveland, Ohio. “I certainly didn’t envision that ten years later things would be anything like this. To be honest, we were pretty shocked that we got a call from Telluride. We were like, ‘What, what do you mean? Ok. We’ll be there!”

That decision to give it a shot and trust in their ability to pull it off, was a good one, but it wasn’t one that Sheaffer and his bandmates made without some confidence. “I’ll tell you a moment where I knew there was something going on with this group of musicians,” he said. “We recorded our demo at our friend Don’s studio and we did the song ‘Black Bear.’ After the take, I went into the control room to listen back to what we had done and as soon as I heard that music coming out of the speakers I remember actually saying to everybody there: ‘Woah!’ We had captured lightning in a bottle and you could feel it. You got those chills down your spine and we all just had that feeling that we had really captured a moment. So right there I knew that there was something going on with this music.”

Today, more than ten years removed from that recording session, Railroad Earth is still going as strong as ever and though Sheaffer did talk about how he felt they had evolved as a band, one listen to some early bootlegs from 2001 will show you that the band hasn’t strayed too far from the kind of music they were making back then. “Musically, we still touch on the thing that brought us together in the first place, which is a string band playing some bluegrass, but it’s become a little bit more of a rock show. It’s a bigger sound and I don’t think you can really call us a bluegrass band,” he said. “We’ve worked really hard over the years to adjust our sound to create the sound that you hear in the theatre. It’s very unique. It’s come a really long way and I’m proud of that. I’m proud of what we’ve done and we couldn’t have done it without Mike [Partridge] our sound engineer. He’s been a big part of that but I think we’ve grown a lot in that way as a band as well.”

At the end of the month, Railroad Earth will be bringing this big sound back to Colorado to celebrate the New Year here for the second year in a row. “People seem to love us there and we really love playing there. We have a lot of fans in Colorado and it’s a great place for our music,” he said, before moving on to talk about The Ogden Theatre in particular. “We love that room. It’s big enough to house the fans that want to come see us, but it also has an intimate feeling. It’s a lot of fun, it allows for a real connection with the fans.”

Though Sheaffer alluded to the possibility of several sit-ins throughout the run, he did confirm that the only one that will be announced in advance is a collaboration with String Cheese Incident keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth. “Kyle is a wonderfully sympathetic player and can hang with pretty much anything we throw at him,” Sheaffer said. “We have a few different ideas we are working on and we haven’t played a whole lot with keys since the release of our second album, Bird In The House, so it should be interesting. I’m looking forward to a really fun night with him!”

No doubt Hobo’s, as Railroad Earth fans call themselves, are looking forward to it as well as they plot their route to the Ogden. Whether it’s by car, rail or airplane, one thing is for sure: everyone is going to be “Smiling like a Buddha” when the lights go down and Sheaffer and his bandmates take the stage to serenade their devoted followers.

 

 

:: Railroad Earth ::

:: Ogden Theatre :: December 29-31 ::

 

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