Railroad Earth at The National (The Mighty River, Rolling Along)
Railroad Earth is a band beyond description, escaping every genre while still being grounded with reminiscent sounds from America's past. Railroad Earth is a reclamation of all things Americana. Gathering a devote following, myself included, I always leave their shows mind blown, ecstatic with energy and rearing for more. This would mark only my 4th time seeing RRE but this performance certainly left a lasting impression on me and the other members of the audience.
Railroad Earth began their set with a nod to The National, who was celebrating their 10th anniversary of re-opening in 2008. It was fitting that I would be at this anniversary show because I also attended that first show a decade ago. RRE opened with "Seven Story Mountain" and a heavy extended jam sequence into "Old Dangerfield." Their improvisational segments are on the verge of haunting, almost skin crawling but they always bring it back to their roots of Bluegrass and Folk. Roosevelt Collier joins the band adding yet another instrument to this sonic powerhouse. Roosevelt has been making his rounds with many big name acts in the Jam and Blues scene alike; his opening performance was riveting and high energy.
Introspective and refined, RRE continue their set, energy and ebullience never reseeding, always on the edge of improvisation and classic composition like a ship teetering at the ends of the earth but never tipping over. RRE defines Jam grass, the spirit of America runs through them from native roots to the Grateful Dead's American legacy. Like a hobo on an endless train waiting to return to some mythical Earth, filled with steam engines and cowboys, the band continues their musical journey down the rails of life. It's almost as if this band creates their own musical world every night.
Many of their songs on this set-list were unfamiliar to me and that's a great thing. One of the best things about live music is finding new songs and harmonies to obsess over, like "When The Sun Gets In Your Blood" or "Blazin’ A Trail," while still playing crowd favorites, "Like A Buddha" and "Mighty River." Morphing their sound effortlessly into something new and different at the drop of a hat, RRE ends with a jam into The Deads "The Wheel," which was a pleasant surprise, not many bands cover that song. “If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will."
Again, RRE astound and amaze with their originality and all around vibe. This band deserves top spots at all the major jam festivals out there. Lockn, Peach, take note.
Smiling like a Buddha,
Jam Band Purist
Set 1: Seven Story Mountain, Old Dangerfield, Lordy, Lordy, Blazin' a Trail, Addin' My Voice, Walk Beside Me, Magic Foot, Luxury Liner , Wayfaring Stranger
Set 2: Cold Water, Just So You Know, Bread and Water, Only by the Light , Raven's Child, When the Sun Gets in Your Blood, The Forecast , The Berkeley Flash, Like a Buddha, Cuckoo Medley
Encores: Mighty River, The Wheel
Jon Stickley Trio Birthday Event at 5 Points Music Sanctuary
Back at 5 Points Music Sanctuary in Roanoke, Virginia which has become JBP headquarters lately with all the amazing concerts and bands being booked here. I was introduced to Jon Stickley Trio this past summer at Rooster Walk Music Festival which I hope to attend and cover again this coming May in Martinsville, Virginia. Pops Farm is always a great place to experience new music and this is where I got my first experience with Marcus King.
Jon Stickley Trio is a unique blend of instrumental Jam, Traditional Irish-Folk songs, Hard Rock and Bluegrass. With razor sharp guitar riffs and outstanding fiddle work to match, their transitions are progressive and original; I've never really heard anything like them before. While personally, I'd love the addition of lyrical and vocal qualities, it really doesn't make a difference this trio is powerful and should have a much larger following. Covering Bill Monroe's “Jerusalem Ridge”, this is a great example of how The Jon Stickley Trio are turning traditional bluegrass music on its head and doing something innovative and contemporary.
It being Jon Stickley’s 36th birthday, the band would go on to play "The best set of music they have ever played" and they looked to be recording a video of some sorts. For a three-piece, this band makes a lot of noise and they communicate on stage very well together. This allows them to improvise and take their jams out into new unknown territory, every night. At many times, I would be lost in the music and completely forget what song they were playing or I found myself trying to think of a familiar riff or melody.
During the last few songs, which included a great medley with Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit” mixed with “Ripple”, The Grateful Dead classic, Jon Stickley himself would try on the SubPac; one of the musical programs at 5 Points Music Sanctuary. The SubPac was developed to make the user feel the musical vibrations in their entire body, as opposed to hearing it. I thought it was super cool of Jon to try this on and he continued to wear it throughout the performance commenting on how it felt and the benefits of these musical programs. JS3 would end their outstanding performance with “Flight Of The Derby” a high energy and contemplative song, perfect for ending this wonderful night of music and celebration.
After seeing Jon Stickley Trio again for the second time, I am even more impressed by their unique sound and improvisational abilities. I would love to see a co-headlining tour with Railroad Earth or someone of that stature. More people need to see this band and experience their live performance. Thanks again to 5 Points for having me back and facilitating such outstanding shows here in Virginia.
Jam Band Purist
Photos By: Misti Walters Photography
Kung Fu, the Connecticut based Funk-Rock band has been on my radar for quite some time now; I hadn't been able to catch a live show until recently and I'm really glad it was at 5 Points in Roanoke, Virginia. Having been quite familiar with their catalog of songs, I knew I was in for at the very least, a decent show. Opening up with “Scorpion” from their recent release ‘Ninja Cuts,’ Kung Fu came out swinging or karate chopping and I knew I was in for more than a “decent” show.
I was immediately reminded of Frank Zappa, with dissonant tonality in their transitions and tight mix of Prog-Rock, funk and even a little Jam. Guitarist, Tim Palmieri was a phenomenal soloist and knows his scale progressions backwards and forwards. Sax player, Robert Somerville had a perpetual smile that was infectious to the whole crowd.
Kung Fu would go on to cover, Steely Dan; I can't remember which song but you know “The Dan” when you hear it. After that short interlude into yacht rock territory, it was all business and there was no stopping Kung Fu, as they jammed out “Hollywood Kisses,” “Chin Music” and many more of their original songs that were filled with improvisational intros; flowering and evolving into full blast funk in your face. I'm most impressed with their transitions that seem to test of the bounds of Eectro-Jazz-Funk chord progressions and climactic crescendos.
5 Points Music Sanctuary again, comes through with an amazing act to celebrate and highlight their pursuit in the power of sound. I can't say enough about this venue and the programs they offer. https://5pointsmusic.com The show lineup is stacked and you will be hearing a lot more about this place. Roanoke seems to have a budding music scene and with the recent announcement that moe. will be playing a local festival, big things are in the works.
Kung Fu is a great name for this band and with musical chops and figurative kicks, this band is as good, as any of the hard-hitting acts in the Jam-Funk scene today; like Lettuce or Galactic. Kung Fu brings intense energy to the stage and the audience leaves it on the dance floor. I will be seeing more of Kung Fu whenever I can and you should too.
Jam Band Purist
After my recent visit to the magnificent 5 Points Music Sanctuary in Roanoke Virginia, I was graciously invited back and will hopefully be working with them in the future developing content. With a great lineup of Jam/Rock acts coming up, I know I will be spending a lot more time at 5 Points one way or another. In my recent Pink Talking Fish review, I touched on the Sanctuary and its Music Therapy, Music Education, and Hearing Loss Advocacy programs. As an advocate for Special Needs and former special-education teacher, these programs are close to my heart. I support this cause and want to inform my readers about these exclusive music therapy programs that benefit the local Virginia community. Passed around at the Yarn show was a backpack, called the Subpac, which allows the user to experience the music through vibrations. When the bass pounds on stage, you feel it in the backpack. This technology is one of the many examples of the opportunities Tyler Godsey and his team are bringing to 5 Points Music Sanctuary. The story of 5 Points is an amazing example of strength and opportunity. With these programs like the Subpac Initiative, the sanctuary is truly striving to keep the power of music alive for everyone. Much more to come on this venue and with shows like: Kung Fu, Feb 8th, Jon Stickley Trio, Feb 9th and 10th, Melvin Seals and JGB March 22nd, my friends Marbin, April 5th, and Ghost Light feat. Tom Hamilton and Holly Bowling on April 19th. To learn more about 5 Points and their live shows and music therapy programs, follow this link: https://5pointsmusic.com/programs/
I had never experienced Yarn, the Brooklyn Alt-Country band (wait... what Brooklyn? Country? Yes, that's right.) But I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the musicianship and songwriting originality. Yarn is a vibrant mix of country, rock, and rockabilly sprinkled with some bluegrass, folk, and stitched together with a touch of grunge. There were times when there was improvisation and the band started to jam, but Yarn stayed true to the standard old country feel. Song themes ranged from traveling down south, breaking up, and drug use; themes I think most of us relate to in one way or another. The crowd was with the band the entire time. Yarn is well beyond a bar act and something much more serious.
Tour seasoned, Yarn has been riding out troubled times and rolling with the changes, releasing a new album, 'This is The Year.' With the songs, "Carolina Heart" and "This Is The Year" highlighting the album. It does seem a different direction than the previous sound Yarn has cultivated. With lyrics like, “This is the year, we’re gonna make that change/this is the year, we start all over again/This is the year, we’re all gonna come out swingin’/we’re gonna raise a glass to a new beginning,” the band is obviously looking to change things up and push their music into high gear. The sound in the Sanctuary certainly complements this type of music and the band was tight and constructed while still remaining loose and fluid. Bass player and Dave Grohl look-alike Rick Bugal, drives the rhythm of this band forward, always in the groove and ready to take the music further. Lead guitarist Rod Hohl, reminds me of a hired gun, ready to unload when the time is right with a country and western picking style that is smooth and unstoppable. Always staying steady like a train engine, drummer Bobby Bonhomme, is the heartbeat of Yarn. While lead vocalist and guitarist Blake Christiana is the lifeblood, reminding me very much of Todd Snider, a vagabond storyteller with an old soul that leaves his heart written in the lyrics. I look forward to catching Yarn again this summer at Roosterwalk Music Festival and if you haven't listened to Yarn and you really like country–rock check them out.
~Jam Band Purist
Greensky Bluegrass (Not Out Of Control In Richmond)
Right before I left for Las Vegas for three wonderful nights of Widespread Panic (Review Coming Soon) I had the extreme pleasure of seeing Greensky Bluegrass for the 3rd time this summer. Greensky has been a staple in my musical diet since Roosterwalk this past summer, with that amazing sit-in from the man himself, Marcus King.
Greensky’s songs are evocative, thought provoking and heartbreaking at times. They are the perfect band to uplift your spirits and cause you to reflect upon, not only your life but you inner self. With songs like ‘Old Barns’ ‘Windshield’ and ‘In Control’ that include lyrics like, “Everything around me now will be reduced to the ground, At the cost of my foolish nature, Consequence and conditioning, All weighing at me, To slow my patience.” and “Old barns don't tear down, Let 'em stand proud until they fall to the ground.” With these lyrics the listener can feel and hear the spiritual mantra that is Greensky Bluegrass.
While most of their songs are quite uplifting and happy, they can delve into the deeper side of not only Bluegrass but also the human psyche. There are moments within some of the Jams that feel almost dark and chaotic, they give me shivers up my spine. This is one of the reason I really enjoy this band but also one of the reasons many start talking during Greensky’s jam into progressive Bluegrass, which the name itself means to “move forward” and that's just what they do, innovating and keeping Bluegrass fresh. They seem to take influence from Arabic or Indian melodic structures, chord progressions and scales.
‘Headed for a breakdown’ was well done and jammed out beyond proportions. Included in this set list was ‘Old Barns’ and ‘In Control’ with a very special ‘When Doves Cry’ the classic Prince song. Greensky always seems to pull out a new and exciting cover every time I see them. Each show I have seen has included a new cover first-ABB at Roosterwalk , second-‘Atlantic City’ at Lockn' (The Band style not Springsteen) and finally Prince. This is one of the reasons I will continue to see Greensky Bluegrass every chance I get.
Listening back to this show on nugs.net, the rendition of ‘Broke Mountain Breakdown’ is fantastic and definitely one of the best I have heard. The encore ‘Demons’ was dark and ominous but uplifting and left the crowd satisfied.
Greensky has become one of my favorite live acts this past year they fill a niche that this genre of Progressive Bluegrass has needed since Bela Fleck and the Flecktones; extreme improvisation and dark transient compositions. Although Greensky’s music keeps reminding me of my past and brings out some heavy emotions, I continue to integrate their music into my daily life and can recall countless mornings waking up with ‘Old Barns’ or ‘In Control’ lodged inside my head, like some sort of burrowing creature. I'm sure if you give them a listen, you will find something there that is irresistible and undeniable.
About a year ago, I met and interviewed the band Marbin, a high-energy Rock/Jazz hybrid that had impressed me with songs like, 'African Shabtay' and 'Redline' on their social media/YouTube video campaign the year before. Since my first Marbin show, I have been lucky enough to see them three more times and we have become fast friends; sharing many musical interests and debating the ins-and-outs of the music industry on various occasions.
As musicians, Marbin is growing exponentially; each member giving it they’re all on stage, every night, traveling the county and the world. Their musical influences and growth can be heard in their most recent compositions, which lean more into psychedelic and ballad like movements; leaving more room for improvisation and modulation within live performances. Marbin is constantly evolving, adding new intros, outros and transitions into their already solid repertoire.
Their newest unreleased album titled, "Israeli Jazz" seems to have woken more creativity inside this band, as they play these new songs with a raw and driving intensity. 'Israeli Jazz' the title track from the newest album, is hard and transient, smooth and razor sharp. I look forward to hearing the entire album and doing a full review when it is completed.
Dani Rabin shows exceptional guitar skills, on par, if not greater than, many guitarists in the progressive Jazz and Jam scene. Dani is always growing and expanding his musical education, incorporating those Gypsy Jazz scales he loves so much, into the music he constantly creates. Danny Markovitch is the backbone of this group and although he stands to the side during solos, he is always solemnly contemplating what comes next and critically evaluating every note. Jon Nadel is the perfect bass player for this band and although, he isn't an original member, he keeps both Danny and Dani in check while bringing a masterful bass technique and skill on his fret-to-fretless bass guitar. The heartbeat of Marbin is drummer Blake Jiracek, who is always in his own world, tirelessly keeping up with the other members and pushing the rhythmic structure further and further.
While Marbin, hasn't reached the peak of their success, little by little, they are gaining attention and amassing a loyal following just waiting for them to explode on to the scene but which scene? Finding that direction is highly important to what Marbin could become in the future. I am sure that they will succeed in any musical route/niche they decide to pursue and I will be along for the ride.
I am looking forward to another Marbin performance in Harrisonburg, Virginia on April 4 at the Golden Pony. If you live in or around the area, feel free to contact me and we can meet up! If not, check this band out when they come to you locally, I am always truly blown away.
A Fan and Friend,
Jam Band Purist
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.