With Amen Corner (SCI Fidelity), Railroad Earth's first new studio recording in four years, the New Jersey sextet moves into the forefront of the loosely defined Americana movement. Working a predominantly bluegrass vibe, and stretching it with trenchant bits of jazzy new-grass, country, folk, rock, and Celtic, these lads from the trackless wilds of the Garden State combine superb picking with Todd Sheaffer's sweet, soulful, just-creaky-enough vocals. Chief songwriter Sheaffer also crafts sharp songs that become richly detailed rambles via the group's dynamic ensemble play, yielding suggestions of the Band ("Hard Livin'," featuring Andy Goessling's saxes), Jerry Garcia/David Grisman jug-band collaborations ("All Alone"), the Waterboys (the driving, Celtic-tinged "Right in Tune"), country-rock ("Crossing the Gap"), and swing ("The Forecast," with its delicious interplay of John Skehan's mandolin and Tom Carbone's fiddle). Inspiration flickering at every turn, RE sounds particularly assured and focused, and appears to be moving into its prime. 18+.
Tue., Sept. 16, 7:30 p.m., 2008