Railroad Earth – Tell me, have you heard the story?
Typically a self titled album would be indicative of a band’s first album; but it only took a long walk home to recognize the sound that has been turning fans into hobos since 2001. Diverse would be too simple of a term to describe Railroad Earth’s most recent studio creation. Since Oct 12th I’ve repeatedly listened to the new album searching for a way to describe it. Then it hit me that evolutionary is more appropriate, thus the self titled name and members rising out of water on the cover. It’s hard to imagine that only 9 years ago this band was scratching their way to complete Black Bear Sessions quickly after a sudden invitation to Telluride.
The first track Long Walk Home is a harmonious melody that could not be confused with any other band. It moves right into a piece of railway history, the story of the Jupiter and 119 Union Pacific locomotives. If you listen closely you can find yourself wondering if the locomotives were from Ireland due to the jig sound buried deep in the song. Instantly I envisioned this song as a live show classic; one that is sure to set off a hobo gambol.
As the train leaves the station we’re taken to another piece of history in the song Black Elk Speaks. From an early 30’s novel the sound of the song will remind you of Hunting Song from Elko. This is our first hint of the new sound with more electronic influences and group vocals.
The album highlights lead singer Todd Sheaffer’s distinct voice on the two slower songs, Day on the Sand and On the banks. There are not many voices that have such a distinct sound. I would put him in the same category with Gregg Allman and John Bell, when comparing the fact that you know exactly who is singing when a song comes on. While the album might seem short in song selection, the band makes up for it on the long jam of Spring Heeled Jack. Every time I hear Spring Heeled Jack I feel like I’m at a concert and expect it to feed right into Mighty River.
So it is easy to see how the band has evolved with new sounds while staying true to the sound that so many have come to love. If I had to find one thing I disliked about the album it would be the fact that there are only nine songs. Of course I want more songs per album. Admittedly it took me a few days to just get past the first three songs, but the entire album is a great cross country trip on the tracks to wherever you are headed.
By John Williams