Thursday, May 29, 2008

Railroad Earth's "Amen Corner"

Railroad Earth, one of the featured bands at Michael Arnone's Crawfish Festival this weekend, took some time off from its tour schedule earlier this year to make a new record, "Amen Corner." I think it's their best record yet, a strong set of songs that will provide the blueprint for some great live performances. Like many memorable albums of the past, Amen Corner opens with a trio of songs that create a dramatic flow to the record in the way they're sequenced. The beautiful, reflective "Been Down This Road" opens the record on a tuneful note that balances the band's old-timey string-driven sound with its roots rock rhythm section. "Hard Livin'" ratchets up the energy for a hook laden delight of a tune that it sure to open up into a superior jamming forum in live performance. But Railroad Earth shifts into yet another gear for the high flying mountain hoedown "Bringin' My Baby Back Home," a kissin' cousin to the classic "Rollin In My Sweet Baby's Arms." After that happy trio of songs get the show on the road the record moves toward particulars like the easy acoustic picking frontman Todd Sheaffer uses to settle into "The Forecast." Sheaffer's songwriting skills continue to carry the album through "Right In Tune," the happy-picking "Waggin' the Dog," "Little Bit O' Me" and the sprightly instrumental "Lonecroft Ramble." After a couple of co-writes from Sheaffer and John Skehan, the great road song "Crossing the Gap" and the wistful ballad "All Alone," two more Sheaffer-penned songs close the album, the clever shuffle of "You Never Know," which sounds very much like a number of Jerry Garcia signature pieces, and the inspirational signoff "Lovin' You." All in all, a very good album from a band that is really coming into its own.

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