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Railroad Earth Chugs into Suede
The Free-Spirited Jazz Band Comes to Park City

By Autumn Thatcher
Concert Preview:
Railroad Earh
Honkeytonk Homeslice
Wednesday, Feb. 8
9 p.m.
(1612 Ute Blvd., Park City)
Must be 21
Tickets cost $13,
via Smith’sTix

The members of Railroad Earth have kept themselves overwhelmingly busy since their formation nearly five years ago. A mere three weeks after playing together for the first time as a band, they found themselves in the studio recording tracks for what would be their first release, The Black Bear Sessions. The band has since released three more albums and is currently touring to promote its first live double album, Elko.

Vocalist/mandolin player John Skehan took some time while driving through the mountains of Colorado to speak with the Salt Shaker about the current tour and the excitement of the band's rapid success. As the band enters its third week of hard touring, the six members of the New Jersey–based band are realizing that recording live is in fact a pretty good idea.

“The tour is going very well so far. We have almost a startling increase of fans at our concerts” says Skehan, who admits that the band was amped to record live at the Fillmore in San Francisco and, while there, realized that over a thousand fans had turned out for the show. The continual growth of the audience at each stop is both exciting and a bit surprising for the blue-grass jam band. “This has been an ongoing surprise and experiment,” says Skehan. “Though we’re from Jersey, we did most of our work out in the West and we had a lot of exposure very early on in our career. Gradually, we have been seeing a little more of an increase in interest in our own hometown.”

Having hit the studios so soon after forming as a band, Railroad Earth's constant touring has given the band members a chance to increase their development and figure out exactly who they are. “A lot of our evolution has happened by chance and kind of naturally. We didn’t really have any clue as to what the band was gonna be or what we would become,” says Skehan, who admits that over the past five years the band has certainly become more comfortable playing on stage together. “We love playing live as a six-piece band. What you hear is what you get. It allows us to be spontaneous."

Though the band is often placed into the bluegrass genre, Skehan maintains that the group is more than the typical bluegrass band. “We are an amplified string band. We’re bluegrass musicians playing rock and roll, and depending on what day it is, rock-and-roll musicians playing bluegrass.”

The current tour has been rather rewarding for the sextet, as its members are finding that the hardcore fans follow them from one venue to the next, and the shows just keep getting larger. “Our fans are an interesting bunch,” says Skehan. “A lot of people have been with us from the beginning. It’s hard to know how to take it in or how to thank them”. Though the band is a little awkward in thanking their fans, the jam band’s followers do not seem to notice. “Our fans have provided us with everything from vegetarian meals to massage therapy for our ailing bodies,” says Skehan.

Utah residents will get the chance to experience the diverse sound of Railroad Earth—and maybe get in on a little massage therapy action—on Wednesday, February 8, when the band will grace the stage of Suede in Park City. Railroad Earth will continue its current tour into March, and will then head off to Jamaica where they will kick back and relax with fellow jam band Leftover Salmon, play some music, and maybe, just maybe, get a little rowdy.

autumn [at]


The Salt Shaker is an Arts & Entertainment publication in Salt Lake City, Utah. It is published every other Friday. For information on advertising, call 801-637-0401 or email patrick [at] To have your event considered for publication, write to jeremy [at] Copyrighted material remains the property of the original owner. Web Site Copyright 2005.

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