For a band that openly rejects genre labels, Railroad Earth brought just the type of musical versatility they advertise during their show at The Sylvee on March 5. Performing styles ranging from jam band rock to pure bluegrass, Railroad Earth’s range of music melded together to create an upbeat and energetic atmosphere that readily engaged their devoted fanbase.
The band opened their set with “The Hunting Song,” a muddy, soulful rock tune. Beginning with a sharp melody on the acoustic guitar, the rest of the band joined into the song to create a strong, full band sound with a mystic energy. After the first set of lyrics, members of the band traded solos on stage, including a smooth and twangy lap steel solo, which presented an original and genuine experience of live improvisation.
After returning to the song structure, the band slowed to a soft ending, and then quickly switched modes into a faster paced, upbeat bluegrass tune. Centered around a banjo melody and tied together with frequent violin fills, the transition highlighted Railroad Earth’s bluegrass roots while and simultaneously showcased their musical versatility.
The remainder of Railroad Earth’s set continued to exemplify this unique sound of jam band rock and bluegrass, as well as elements of folk, blues and jazz. Their repertoire also included an even blend of structured songwriting, free-form breaks filled with stunning improvisation, as well as sections where the entire band played a melody in unison to create tight lines.
Railroad Earth’s March 5t show in Madison was part of their winter 2020 tour. This is the band’s second tour since the death of co-founding band member Andy Goessling2018.
Opening for Railroad Earth was roots-rock band Old Salt Union. The band was comprised of instrumentalists playing violin, banjo, mandolin and upright bass, and worked to bring a more traditional bluegrass sound, yet remained upbeat and energetic.