The sophomore curse. Many bands lose their focus or try to be something that they are not when making their second album. Railroad Earth avoids that cliché on their new album, Bird in a House. Todd Sheaffer and company has put together another impressive group of songs with memorable hooks, effortless playing, and soothing vocals.

Railroad Earth's sound ties in bluegrass, rock, country, and jazz. The thing that really sets them apart is the use of chord progressions that wouldn't normally be played with such instrumentation. The seven-piece group includes a Mandolin, Banjo, Dobro, Ukulele, Violin and your standard guitar, bass and drums. On most tracks the band keeps things interesting by weaving seven different instrumental lines that intertwine leaving the listener with many interesting interactions between players.

Bird in a House stands out most because of Todd Sheaffer's songwriting abilities. The opener "Drag Him Down" is an upbeat song with a violin line that will have you humming for days. "Like a Buddha" starts off with an addictive Ukulele line that transmits into a song about as catchy as you can be with out calling yourself pop. "Give that Boy a Hand" shines with a unique chord progression that allows the banjo to craft a refreshing melody.

All of the songs are portrayed to the listener powerfully through musicianship that allows the right instrument to stand out at the right time; an accomplishment for a seven-piece band playing unique lines. Sheaffer's passionate and raspy vocals mixed with beautiful harmonies add to the appeal of the album. The one drawback to the album for me was "Peace on Earth," a song that had a cheese factor larger than Wisconsin.

All in all though, Railroad Earth has put together a great album, wonderful to throw in when you get to work in the morning or to play while reading the Sunday paper. The album breathes a very comforting and sunshiny feel into the listener and leaves them with a smile on their face.

Geoff Harrison
JamBase | Mill Valley
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[Published on: 6/9/02]

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