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Railroad Earth
Bluegrass


Railroad Earth emerged from the breakup of one of New Jersey's most popular bands, From Good Homes, in early 2001. After appearances at some of the major summer festivals on the bluegrass circuit -- the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, High Sierra Music Festival, and the Fox Theater in Boulder, CO, in 2001 -- Railroad Earth showed that its music could go well beyond the realm of traditional bluegrass to incorporate folk, Celtic, jazz, and rock music. Todd Sheaffer, the group's main songwriter and former lead singer in From Good Homes, stood at the forefront of the group's vision. Songwriting became a matter of personal growth and the expression of human emotions for him. The journey began for Railroad Earth as early as 1998, when Timothy Carbone (Blue Sparks From Hell, Kings in Disguise) met film music supervisor Brian Ross (former booking agent with Family Tree Agency) at the now-defunct Wetlands club in New York City. The two started a conversation about bluegrass music during a break in the music performance that night. After many telephone conversations and e-mails several months later, the two discussed more seriously the idea of gathering together professional musicians in New Jersey to play bluegrass at informal jam sessions. Ross hired Carbone and Andy Goessling (also in Blue Sparks From Hell, Kings in Disguise) to play music for the soundtrack of the film Big Eden. Sheaffer arrived at the bluegrass sessions in the fall of 2000 with some new songs, which the musicians rendered as bluegrass songs. All the musicians started to gather at the Shindig, open mics sponsored by the Pocono Bluegrass Society. Informal jam sessions continued at Goessling's house with multi-instrumentalist John Skehan (Bobby Syvarth Band) joining the other three musicians. Then came the decision to start practicing these songs (written by Sheaffer and others) seriously as a band. Ross approached the musicians about forming a band and performing as Railroad Earth. The new group secured its core members in Sheaffer (vocals, acoustic guitar); Goessling (acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, pennywhistle, saxophone); Carbone (violin, acoustic guitar); and session player John Skehan (mandolin, guitar, piano). Drummer-percussionist Carey Harmon (formerly with the Hour and Bobby Syvarth Band), and upright and electric bassist Dave Von Dollen (recently graduated from New York's New School) completed the lineup in January 2001. The bluegrass-rock group first recorded a five-song demo in February 2001 at Mixolydian Studios in Lafayette, NJ. Four of those songs ("Head," "Black Bear," "Stillwater Getaway," and "Cold Water"), plus six new songs recorded in April 2001 at the same facility became the band's debut CD, The Black Bear Sessions (BOS MUSIC). Rairoad Earth broadened its songwriting late in 2001, carrying on the improvisational, multiple-genre tradition started by the Grateful Dead, String Cheese Incident, Phish, and Leftover Salmon. The group skated the edge of traditional bluegrass and the jam band tradition to produce an eclectic blend of folk, Celtic, jazz, and rock filtered through a bluegrass lens. Railroad Earth returned to the recording studio in late 2001 for a second CD. Robert Hicks

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