Viva Railroad Earth

I’ve been meaning to post something about Railroad Earth since I listened to their three-night New Year’s run a couple of weeks ago. Today I posted this on a mailing list of European Deadheads:

The reason I think Railroad Earth is the best band of the current era is that they have many of the same attributes you enumerate here [“heart and soul,” “fantastic songs,” “variety,” “inventiveness,” and “evolution.”]. Todd Sheaffer’s songs are complex and deep; like the Grateful Dead, he is not afraid to go to dark places and deal with adult themes. And the musicians who surround Sheaffer are brilliant storytellers in their own right: like the Dead, they know their job is to support the song, not to display their instrumental prowess.

A Grateful Dead show had a narrative quality – the collection of songs describing a place and a set of characters and conflicts, loose enough for each of us to imagine our way into that world and powerful enough to charge the atmosphere with provocative, evocative energy. I feel the same way about a Railroad Earth performance – maybe not quite as intensely as the Dead at their best, but this band very definitely shares that literary quality with the Dead.

By contrast, last night I hosted Andy Gadiel for a two-hour salute to Phish on the occasion of their return to performing. Lots of intense music and great playing, but they are the “Seinfeld” of improvisational music: most of their songs are quite deliberately about nothing.

The Railroad Earth New Year’s run is available from livedownloads – 12/29/08, 12/30/08, and 12/31/08 at the Aladdin Theater in Portland, Oregon. I am planning to play some of New Year’s Eve on the GD Hour and on Dead to the World. There’s a sweet rendition of “Sisters and Brothers” (familiar to fans of the Jerry Garcia Band), and “Warhead Boogie” from that show goes into some deliciously weird places. Other highlights include “The Forecast” (my favorite song on their most recent studio CD, Amen Corner) and “Railroad Earth” from their first CD, The Black Bear Sessions.

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3 Responses to “Viva Railroad Earth”

  1. […] raved about the recordings of Railroad Earth’s New Year’s run a few weeks ago. “Warhead Boogie” is from the 12/31/08 show. All three of the year-end shows are great. […]

  2. SallyKnowItall says:

    I love Todd Sheaffer.
    He is a poet, a jokester, a dilemma,
    a lover, a fighter,
    did i mention a poet?
    a shining light in a world of darkness.
    he will make you tell the truth.

    violet eyes, misty water blue.

    dont look to close at his beautiful eyes, they will burn your Spirit,
    and make you dream of him, every night, for years and years,
    until you think you want to die,
    you’ll be one with suffering then..

    look away from those beautiful eyes,
    burning for love.

    run, while your heart is still yours.

  3. charlie hogan says:

    hey sally, got that right! i was his friend and may still be his biggest fan–keep listening and shareing your thoughts and maybe someday the world will catch up with us–peace and love!

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