Written by Fumo Verde
Railroad Earth does it again by giving us a little bit of Americana with their new CD Amen Corner. Meshing traditional bluegrass with a slightly progressive flavor and adding a tinge of R&B, the album not only highlights the talent of this amazing band, but it leaves us with a disc where every song is a winner. Each tune has its own distinct taste like a fine wine and draws the listener into the bright world of Railroad Earth.
This whole album was created and produced in a 300-year-old house deep in the rural countryside of the great state of New Jersey, my home state, where it can get as country as Manchester, Tennessee. As it says in the liner notes, doing this album in this particular house called Lone Croft, was an adventure which helped create this CD. Whether it helped them or not, Amen Corner has some real jewels and those who dig the bluegrass sound should definitely check it out.
I’m going to start with my favorite song right off the bat, “The Forecast.” When first hearing the beginning of this tune one wouldn’t think it’s a bluegrass song, not until the violin comes into play. Even the slight strumming of the banjo plays like the tropical backing of a Jimmy Buffett song. A lackadaisical beat coming gently from the drums with the soft strumming from the stings gives this song that lazy summer day feel. The lyrics tell a different kind of story. “Forecast says there’s a storm ahead/ my opinion is sunny rain/ not a breeze /days of ease /clear skies over head./ Forecast says there’s a storm a-brewing/ heavy rain/ heavy wind /batten down and bored them up/ best stay overhead.” The words speak of disaster as the music puts out a totally different type of vibe.
My next favorite is “Waggin’ The Dog,” a political message bottled up in a progressive bluegrass beat that will have you tapping your foot and shaking your fist. Drums and bass thrust this song forward as the guitar and mandolin add to the lyrics like a chorus. This tune takes the genuine backbone of a bluegrass melody and puts an R&B twist to it, giving it the energy to keep you moving along with it.
For a more traditional bluegrass song, “Bringing My Baby Back Home” rips it open with banjo and violin as they charge forward while guitar, bass, and drums try to keep up. “Little Bit O’ Me” has a traditional rhythm to it too, yet slower than the “Bringing…” It has a political message in it also, asking questions about the world we are leaving behind for the future generation.
“Lone Croft Ramble” is the only instrumental on this disc and sounds like the name it bares, yet it only rambles on for five minutes and thirty-nine seconds, but what a five and half minutes it is. I need to see this band live, because I still can’t determine who is singing on what song, Tim or Todd, but whoever is singing on “All Alone” really sounds like Jerry Garcia on this song more than all the others. This one put a tear to my eye for it is just one beautiful song.
Some critics are saying this maybe the band’s best album yet; I believe they are just beginning to come into their own. When this tour comes to town, one would be a fool not to see them and since I’m heading back to Jersey this summer to see family, if RRE is around I will make it a point to see them. Amen Corner is one of those few albums of which I like every song, twelve for twelve, not a one I would skip. This CD comes off clean and would make even Flatt and Scruggs proud. I give this my highest rating: five full bowls.