Fundamentally a bluegrass band from an unlikely origin (New Jersey, the blacktopgrass state?), Railroad Earth long has stretched its bounds much farther afield. The vast panoply of Americana has become RRE's playground, sometimes even sliding jamgrassward. Except lead singer/guitarist Todd Sheaffer is a particularly sharp songwriter with a strong sense of historical context, musically and otherwise, suggesting an affinity with the Band. His songs on the RRE's forthcoming album, simply dubbed Railroad Earth, for instance, reference the Civil War, the first transcontinental railroad, and Native American classic Black Elk Speaks, all with contemporary allusions. The new one also attempts to tap into the rock 'n' roll intensity RRE often conjures up live, a touch of aggression that surfaces most notably in the flowing instrumental "Spring-Heeled Jack." Throughout, as usual, RRE's ensemble work is immaculate and daring, and the group's vocal harmonies approach the richness of prime Crosby, Stills & Nash. Opening will be the idiosyncratic Asheville, N.C., quintet Toubab Krewe, which parlays a sometimes ferocious, consistently convincing fusion of American rock 'n' roll (favoring surf guitar) and West African music (including its rhythms and instrumentation) into swirling psycherootsy maelstroms. All ages.
Sat., Sept. 18, 7 p.m., 2010
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