By Brian Lightfoot
Railroad Earth’s self-titled release is a comfortable and confident layering of Southern rock, country and bluegrass. It is an undeniably American record with very naturally performed and recorded songs. Mixtures of sparkly acoustic instruments and twangy-to-growling telecaster tones matched with driving drum beats, semi-bluegrass bits, and some surprisingly funk- and rock-driven rhythms and progressions make this records truly unique.
The vocals on the album are perfectly unpolished and at times reminiscent of Tom Petty or Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Layered vocals and multiple harmonies arise throughout, panned hard from ear to ear, adding to the live, organic feel of the record.
Instrumentation is great on these recordings; tightness is clearly crucial in the songwriting process for Railroad Earth. Fiddle, mandolin, banjo, electric and slide guitar, drums, upright and electric bass all walk together in precise but jazzy symmetry. The band’s fearless usage of traditional instruments in non-traditional ways shines through on songs like “Spring-Heeled Jack” and “Too Much Information,” in which fiddles accompany bongos and jam-session drums on dance worthy arrangements. This recording is fun and optimistic, reflecting times past in American music, while without qualms assimilating multiple styles from more recent history.