Fresh off 4 shows in the Southeast, Railroad Earth pulled into Denver for a three-show stop at The Ogden Theatre on their Winter 2017 tour. Multi-night runs at the Ogden by the New Jersey-based band have become legendary as the multiple shows inevitably feature special nuggets in addition to the band’s much beloved staples. For those who aren’t that familiar with Railroad Earth and question what genre they are best categorized as – Bluegrass? yes! Rock n Roll? yes! Americana? yes! Folk? yes! – they are really all of the preceding and more. And perhaps mostly importantly, they are virtuosos of their instruments which in any given show might include not only guitars (acoustic, electric, steel and dobro), mandolins, fiddle, bass and drums but also saxophones, penny whistles, flute, banjo and more. And their songs are deep and wide both musically and lyrically.
Jan 20, 2017
The first show of the run on inauguration day, January 20th, began appropriately with “The Jupiter and the 119” a song about the completion of the transcontinental railroad, the rail system that tied together the East and West, and perhaps a metaphor for the unity that the US is so desperately lacking right now. Other highlights of the set were several songs that again, whether intentional or not, could be seen as metaphorical reflections of our troubled times; these included “Storms” (all these storms I know we’ll weather/all these storms we’ll ride togther), “Mourning Flies” – a song about decay and rebirth, and the Tim O’Brien cover, always played masterfully by Railroad Earth, “Walk Beside Me” (People come and walk beside me/’til our pathways do divide/nothing much but love to give you/even less have I to hide).
Second set began with a continuation of the plea for understanding in the form of “Lordy, Lordy” (Lordy, Lord above – come on down and shine your love / we got trouble here below that’s neverending) , a favorite off Railroad Earth’s debut album, The Black Bear Sessions. The set then went on to feature not only Todd Sheaffer favorites like “Mighty River” and the rarer “Way of the Buffalo”, but the John Skehan instrumental “Carrying Coal to Newcastle”, the Tim Carbone led “Crossing the Gap”, and the Andrew Altman and John Skehan led “12 Wolves”. The set also featured covers by Tom Waits (“Cold Water”) and The Band (“Acadian Driftwood”) before ending with an unfamiliar song that began as a slow shuffle and we soon realized was a brand new Railroad Earth tune. “Addin’ My Voice”, a song that tells us it’s gettin’ wild in the city, that I’m adding my voice to the voice of the people that have had enough, and that Old Man Justice is gone, couldn’t have been more appropriate for the day. The encore saw the band joined by guest guitarist Scott Pemberton, whose trio had opened the show, for a rare and wonderful rendition of Neil Young’s “Powderfinger”.
Jan 21, 2017
Day 2 had the packed house dancing right off the mark with a rousing version of “Monkey” off the band’s last studio album, Last of the Outlaws, which went right into the pairing of the bluegrassy “Dance Around Molly” and the Neil Casal cover “Dandelion Wine”. The dance party continued with favorites “Bird in a House”, “Been Down This Road” and “The Butterfly & The Tree”, all of which saw incredible soloing by all the band members including Todd Sheaffer playing some especially extended psychedelic guitar solos. After yet another dance rager courtesy of Tim Carbone singing the George Harrison song “Any Road” the band closed the set with a trio of songs that jammed hard and segued from one right into the next, “Long Walk Home”, “1759”, and “Fisherman’s Blues”.
As the band re-emerged after set break and Andy Goessling picked up the flute, we knew we were in for yet another joyous crowd favorite “Like a Buddha”. This band sure knows how to get a crowd moving on a Saturday night! After a sweet version of “Loving You” Todd Sheaffer then brought guest Andy Thorn, of Leftover Salmon to the stage and proceeded to tell the crowd that the band would be making their annual summer stop at Red Rocks on July 14th supported by Leftover Salmon and Keller and the Keels. The band launched into a quick bluegrassy number that sounded so familiar I initially thought it was a cover. In fact, I could swear I had heard it before. But no, it was the debut of another brand new Railroad Earth tune “Blazin’ a Trail”. I just love when new songs sound like old familiar favorites! Andy Thorn then remained on stage for an especially jammed out version of “Head”. After the pairing of the notably historical “Black Elk Speaks” and “Hangtown Ball”, we were then treated to the third debut of the run, the new Skehan instrumental “The Berkeley Flash”. The Saturday night dance party then closed with “Warhead Boogie” transitioning into “Chasing a Rainbow”. The band chose to encore on a poignant and loving note with the Charles Johnson gospel tune (most often associated with the Jerry Garcia Band), “My Sisters and Brothers”.
Jan 22, 2017
Never miss a Sunday show! Sunday’s capper to the three-show run started with a jammy “Grandfather Mountain” followed by “Magic Foot” segueing right into the Gram Parsons classic “Luxury Liner”. The set also featured a cover of the Robert Earl Keen murder ballad (who doesn’t love those?) “For Love” as well as Railroad Earth favorites “A Day on the Sand”, “Long Way to Go”, the Andrew Altman penned “When the Sun Gets in Your Blood” and a crowd-pleasing “Colorado” for the Colorado crowd. And like the previous two nights, tonight saw another break-out of a new song; this time the debut of “Raven’s Child” written by Tim Carbone and Tad Wise.
The second set of the last show seemingly tied the run together with “Everything Comes Together”. The set also featured “Happy Song” and “Saddle of the Sun” as well as jam-heavy favorites “Seven Story Mountain”, “Elko” and “Birds of America”. There are only a couple of songs played by Railroad Earth that feature multi-instrumentalist Andy Goessling on lead vocals and one of them, “Daddy-O”, makes an appearance tonight. But even rarer than that, the band once again returns to the theme of our country and its present-day struggles with a jaw-droppingly gorgeous version of the the Simon & Garfunkel song, “America (Kathy’s Song)”. The set ends with the duo of David Bromberg’s tale of life on the road “New Lee Highway Blues” and the hoedown that follows it, “Fidlee”. And in this time of uncertainty, it is certain that the one thing that can conquer the suffering in the world is love, so the band encores with the appropriately optimistic and uplifting “Peace on Earth”.
And with that, another inspiring 3-day run of Railroad Earth in Colorado came to a close. Their Winter Tour is only just beginning and I have to say that the band is bringing it big time right now. If you get a chance to catch them on this tour, don’t miss the chance to see some old gems, new debuts, fantastic covers and probably even a guest or two!
RRE @ The Ogden Theatre Denver, CO 1/20/2017
I. The Jupiter and the 119 ->Stillwater Getaway, Storms, Reuben’s Train, Bread And Water, Mourning Flies, Mountain Time, Walk Beside Me
II. Lordy, Lordy, Cold Water, Carrying Coal To Newcastle ->River Jam ->Mighty River, Crossing The Gap, The Cuckoo, Acadian Driftwood, Face with a Hole, Way Of The Buffalo, Cuckoo Medley, 12 Wolves, Addin’ My Voice
E: Powderfinger (w/Scott Pemberton)
RRE @ The Ogden Theatre Denver, CO 1/21/2017
I. Monkey, Dance Around Molly ->Dandelion Wine, Bird in a House, Been Down This Road, Butterfly & The Tree, Any Road, Long Walk Home ->1759 ->Fisherman’s Blues
II. Like A Buddha, Lovin’ You, Blazin’ a Trail (w/Andy Thorn), Head (w/Andy Thorn), Black Elk Speaks ->Hangtown Ball, The Berkeley Flash, Warhead Boogie ->Chasin’ a Rainbow
E: My Sisters & Brothers
RRE @ The Ogden Theatre Denver, CO 1/22/2017
I. Grandfather Mountain, Magic Foot ->Luxury Liner, For Love, When the Sun Gets in Your Blood, A Day On The Sand, Raven’s Child, Colorado, Long Way To Go
II. Everything Comes Together, Shockenaw Mountain Breakdown, Happy Song, Saddle Of The Sun ->Seven Story Mountain, Drag Him Down, Daddy-O, Birds of America, America (Kathy’s Song), Elko, New Lee Highway Blues ->Fiddlee
E: Peace On Earth
Watch some highlights of the Denver run including some debuts:
Addin’ My Voice:
Walk Beside Me:
Acadian Driftwood->Face with a Hole->Way of the Buffalo (courtesy of Kyle Isaac):
Long Walk Home ->1759->Fisherman’s Blues (courtesy of Arloki272):
Blazin’ a Trail (courtesy of Kyle Isaac):
Head (Courtesy of Kyle Isaac):
Birds of America -> America (Courtesy of Arloki272):