18 September 2015 - Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO
for The Lot Scene by Parker
Band Members: Todd Sheaffer - lead vocals, acoustic guitars; Tim Carbone - violins, electric guitar, vocals; John Skehan - mandolin, bouzouki, piano, vocals; Andy Goessling - acoustic guitars, banjo, dobro, mandolin, lap steel, flute, penny whistle, saxophones, vocals; Carey Harmon - drums, hand percussion, vocals; Andrew Altman - upright and electric bass
Set One: Untitled #12 > The Hunting Song > Grandfather Mountain, Bread & Water, Old Dangerfield, I Am a Mess, Colorado, Cold Water
Set Two: Where Songs Begin > Fisherman's Blues, Like a Buddha, Bringin’ My Baby Back Home, A Day on the Sand, The Forecast, Spring-Heeled Jack > Hard Livin', Take a Bow
Encore: Terrapin Station, Long Way To Go
And so, there we were, at Red Rocks with our heads still spinning from the earlier stellar performances of Snarky Puppy and Billy & the Kids, basking in the cool evening air and ready for more music to astound us, more magic to surround us. Given what Railroad Earth came out and did immediately following, we weren’t to be disappointed in the slightest. To the contrary. In fact, this may have been the best RRE show I have seen to date. So many things went so right all evening long — it really was a remarkable show. So, let’s get to it, shall we?
The Railroad boys kicked their evening with us off with some hot jamming and boisterous up energy with the instrumental “Untitled #12”. Like all good Railroad instrumentals, this one featured each of the gents on their respective instruments stepping up and stepping out, showing us the masterful level of skill for which this band has quickly become known. They took this blistering number directly into the slightly slower groove of “The Hunting Song” with a great lead in from John on mando, Andy on penny whistle, and Tim on fiddle. Todd sounded album perfect on the vocals not to mention having a great guitar solo as well. The central jam featured some mean bouzouki work from John as well as Carbone on the shaker. Quite the round robin of instruments, et al, all song long. Impressive to say the very least. After a connecting jam, they took “The Hunting Song” directly into “Grandfather Mountain”, Todd’s familiar voice crooning out the familiar vocals from the stage all the way up the Red Rocks tiers to the mountains that stand tall behind the venue. We were treated to a very nice, very chill, very mellow jam in the middle of “Grandfather” with some lovely fiddle work from Tim not to mention John’s delightful piano strains and Andy on the dobro. So many instruments this band has!! And so good on all of them!! Like John’s amazing piano outro for this piece for instance. Simply stunning. The rollicking “Bread & Water” followed bringing the energy back up to a frenetic dancing pace. Don’t believe me? Take a look and listen here, my friend:
Wowsers. Just wowsers. And this just kept going all night long. Again, best Railroad show I think I’ve seen. Tim Carbone and his fiddle dominated the instrumental “Old Dangerfield” which was followed by “I Am a Mess”, which Todd prefaced by telling us a little of his adventures with his brother in Crested Butte, CO. As fate would have it, we got an excellent banjo solo from Andy as well as one on mando from John out of our “Mess”. “Colorado” rang out next, such sweet, sweet music to those ears gathered underneath the darkened, gentle Colorado skies…it was almost as if they played it on purpose. Heh heh. In all seriousness, however, it sounded just incredible, with superb solos from John on mandolin and Tim on fiddle. Excellence all around! They rounded out this first set with a fun and frolicking “Cold Water” which proved the perfect way to finish up. By the last note the crowd was cheering with a maddened and marvelous fervor, knowing full well how incredible that set was and that we had another set to go. What a way to head into a set break!!
Funky, mellow rock was the name of the game with second set’s “Where Songs Begin” opener. Featuring Andy on saxophone and later Tim on fiddle, I love this one because of the way it feels, slightly different than the rest of their catalogue. Nice long jam…a great opener. They took this directly into The Waterboys’ “Fisherman’s Blues” — what a great cover for this band. Perfect even. Some fine penny whistle from Andy and great fiddle work from Tim gave this one such an authentic feel, certainly it was a welcome surprise. Following this was a pretty epic, but supremely happy and energetic 12:10 long “Like a Buddha” which had the entire amphitheatre singing. Always a fun song and tonight was no exception. This was followed by a sizzling “Bringin’ My Baby Back Home” bringing us all a little fast pickin’ for the night, each of the gents taking advantage to show their stuff. And what and enjoyable band to watch in the midst of a supreme performance such as this! Later on down the set we got a lengthy and funked out “Spring-Heeled Jack” featuring stellar and adept-level skills from each and every member of this collective of acoustic string ninjas. This they took directly into “Hard Livin’” which featured guests the Snarky Puppy horns (Chris Bullock - tenor sax, Justin Stanton - trumpet, Jay Jennings - flugelhorn, and Mike Maher - flugelhorn) — in a word, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!! The added four horns to Andy’s saxophone and the rest of the band? Unbelievably good, my friend! Such a rich texture and full sound on top of that already rich timbre of Railroad Earth! One of my favorite collaborations I have heard with RRE to be sure. What a fantastic version of “Hard Livin’”. So much soul! The Snarky boys stayed out there for the set’s closer as well — “Take a Bow”. And there was still an encore on the way! Almost impossible to believe after such a great set. But it was true, indeed!
As for the encore, I already wrote up a review for the first encore song, “Terrapin Station”, which I hope you’ll enjoy here: Terrapin Encore Review. It was a very special moment that needed its own attention. After nailing “Terrapin” it was time to close with one of theirs, a personal favorite, a crowd favorite, a band favorite: “Long Way to Go”. Lots of energy bringing smiles to lots of faces, this was the perfect choice to wrap up this amazing evening of amazing music. What a setlist, right? What a great series of lovely song choices, right? What a way to spend an evening with Railroad Earth, right? How right everything was with the world after a show like that. How powerful the feeling of gratitude inside. How moved and changed and made joyous by music inside. How transformed. Again, I must say that it was the best I’ve seen them. And they only seem to be getting better, those Railroad gentlemen. What excellent news for all who love incredible music!! Thanks for the one-of-a-kind night, Railroad Earth. Can’t wait to do it all again sometime!!