Railroad Earth: Amen Corner

By: Eric Liebetrau

More than four years after their last studio album, The Good Life, Railroad Earth returns with Amen Corner (out June 10 on SCI Fidelity), a natural next step for a band that continues to make its mark at the nexus of homegrown bluegrass, country and folk - what some refer to as Americana.

Recorded at Lone Croft, a 300-year-old farmhouse in rural New Jersey, this album projects a homey, lived-in feel similar to old Garcia/Grisman collaborations. Longtime RRE engineer Mike Partridge, who turned in great work on the 2006 live album Elko, is back with a clean, crisp production that seamlessly blends the instruments while maintaining the distinct sound of each voice. "Been Down This Road" opens the album in upbeat, sure-handed fashion, Todd Sheaffer's lyrics - "I've been down that road before/ I don't go there anymore" - evoking a sense of hard-won wisdom, a thematic thread on many tracks. The first single, "Hard Livin'," also reflects on the past while looking to the future, and the low-end horn accents perfectly complement the song and the band's positive, open-minded attitude.

"Bringin' My Baby Back Home" goes straight to the heart of the bluegrass tradition with a classic, no-frills, hill-country delivery, echoed later on the instrumental "Lonecroft Ramble." The pleasing hook duel between the mandolin and fiddle in "The Forecast" leads into "Right In Tune," a relaxed, airy ballad equating contentment in a relationship to being in tune while playing music. The pace jumps back up on "Waggin' the Dog," which should please fans of old-school RRE favorites like "Warhead Boogie" and "Long Way to Go." Tighter and more patient than fellow travelers Yonder Mountain String Band, RRE rarely let the music run away, but they always let it breathe.

The sweet, introspective "L'il Bit o' Me" opens the second half and tells the story of a newborn's awakening to the world. For evidence of the band's attention to detail and timing, listen carefully for the well-placed bells in the mix. "Crossing the Gap," which may be the best track, hinges on a standard bluegrass structure but features the vocals of violinist Tim Carbone, which imbue the track with a classic country feel. That vibe also drives "You Never Know," an ambling shuffle that hearkens back to the rawer, loose-limbed days of The Black Bear Sessions (2001) and Bird in a House (2002), and should also appeal to fans of Jerry Garcia's solo acoustic work.

It's always great to see a band improve with each successive album, and Railroad Earth has done just that. Probably their most complete, coherent record, Amen Corner is a fitting release for them at this point in their career, and it bodes well for what is hopefully a long, fruitful future.

JamBase | Across The Tracks
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[Published on: 6/9/08]

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hippyjessica starstarstarstarstar Mon 6/9/2008 12:47PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


If you have comcast check out concert tv on demand this month...they have a 30 minute video shooting the recording of this album. It's pretty good.

ndant703 Mon 6/9/2008 01:13PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!



tourfan starstarstarstarstar Mon 6/9/2008 02:05PM
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Spot on review - one of the best I read here at JB. Love the CD.

Stream it from right here : http://www.railroadearth.com/amencorner/

JonSoda Mon 6/9/2008 02:43PM
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Cannot wait to give it a spin.

They will be in Milwaukee on July 1st at Summerfest, see you there.

tourfan starstarstarstarstar Mon 6/9/2008 02:57PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Borealis Fir starstarstarstarstar Mon 6/9/2008 11:10PM
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Great Review, well done. Love RRE. Personally I can't wait to see them this summer on the road. Summerfest, Rothbury, and Sleeping Bear Dunegrass fest for a few midwest dates. Also I'd def. recommend Elko to anyone out there.

THanks for the link Tourfan

robo2448 starstarstarstarstar Mon 6/9/2008 11:57PM
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Great review. Album is outstanding from the songs I've heard (about half). Can't wait to hear the rest.

aquariumdrunk starstarstarstar Tue 6/10/2008 07:26AM
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My copy arrived yesterday and I gave my first listen on the trek to work this morning -- I'm digging it a bunch, but I think it's going to be more of a grower...which is just fine with me!

wilsonsux13 starstarstarstar Tue 6/10/2008 03:51PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

i saw these guys at delfest for the first time in a few years and they played a few of these new songs -- i love the new album keep them comming

burritknee starstarstarstarstar Thu 6/12/2008 03:14PM
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::):) i'm stoked to see ya saturday! i love everything ya do.

DELYEAH starstarstarstarstar Sat 6/14/2008 11:50AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I love the new album and can't wait to see these guys at All Good!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Mon 6/16/2008 05:15AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

its a wonderful new album, really wonderful, Nice Feel all around..

jeagan Sun 1/18/2009 07:38AM
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great sound how'd i miss this... how long they been around?? be a great start to a DSO show.. have to try and catch them up in Fairfield CT...