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“Pure Feel-Good Music!” Railroad Earth LIVE! in Seaside Heights, NJ

By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

The weather forecast may have predicted rain, but that hasn’t stopped music lovers of all ages from streaming onto the beach in Seaside Heights, NJ this Saturday, July 16, 2022 evening for a Seaside Heights Live concert by Railroad Earth. Formed in 2001, Railroad Earth is a New Jersey-based musical ensemble which employs a distinctive blend of progressive bluegrass, folk, country, rock, jazz, and Americana music.

Before tonight’s show begins, we chat with two concertgoers who are relatively unfamiliar with Railroad Earth and their music. Explains Amy from Brick, “A friend gave us tickets for tonight’s show. We’ve seen bluegrass guitarist, Billy Strings, in concert and he’s just phenomenal, so we’re hoping Railroad Earth is kind of similar,” before adding, “We’re not exactly sure what to expect, but it’s a lot of fun getting to see a concert right on the beach.”

Amy’s friend, Jaimie from Allenwood, agrees, pointing out, “It is a really cool setting for a concert,” prior to joking, “If nothing else, it’s a beautiful summer’s evening away from my husband and kids.”

We also chat with two longtime fans of Railroad Earth. Explains Tom from Maryland, “A group of us have all been friends since college and we still get together to go to concerts. We’ve seen Railroad Earth in New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. They’re an awesome group of musicians who have a lot of fun when they jam.”

Tom’s friend, Dale from North Carolina, agrees, acknowledging, “I’ve been a fan of Railroad Earth for more than ten years and one thing I can say is they absolutely enjoy what they’re doing. They’re a really good jam band, their music is upbeat — and I even named my boat after one of their songs, ‘Long Way to Go.’”

After the announcement, “Making their Seaside Heights debut, here’s Railroad Earth!” is made, audience members stand, clap, and cheer as vocalist/guitarist Todd Sheaffer, violinist/guitarist Tim Carbone, mandolinist John Skehan, bassist Andrew Altman, drummer Carey Harmon, keyboardist Matt Slocum, and banjoist/guitarist/pedal steel guitarist Mike Robinson take the stage.

Audience members dance to the happy sounds of “Cold Water” as Todd Sheaffer sings, “I woke up this morning with the cold water, with the cold water, with the cold water,” accompanying himself on acoustic guitar on this up-tempo country tune.

Bassist Andrew Altman plays up and down his instrument and John Skehan strums his mandolin as the band improvises to cheers and applause.

The band slows things down for “Chasin’ a Rainbow.” Sheaffer channels Bob Dylan with his lead vocal, crooning “Just chasin’ a rainbow/Far across the sky” on this rhythmic number with a Zydeco feel. Audience members move to the groove on this foot-tapper as the tempo quickens. Mike Robinson picks on his banjo while Andrew Altman’s bass twangs as the tune chugs along.

Concertgoers enjoy dancing in the sand, and the rides behind the stage appear to fly in time to the music on “Drag Him Down,” a lightning quick bluegrass number which has Tim Carbone fiddling fast and furiously.

John Skehan’s mandolin twinkles to the rolling beat on the country-rocker, “When the Sun Gets in Your Blood.” Sheaffer sings, “When the sun gets in your blood/When the sand in the hourglass has turn to mud/Then people everywhere will seek out all your love,” as families on the beach have fun blowing bubbles to the music.

The crowd cheers, and Sheaffer responds, “Thank you, folks. It’s nice to be in New Jersey!” before the group launches into “Came Up Smiling.” Sheaffer sings, “Little Johnny started out runnin’ down/Down to the water’s edge/He took a dive in the wild river/He took a dive from a rocky ledge,” on this jaunty story song. Audience members happily sing along on the “He came up smiling” refrain before Matt Slocum’s swirling organ fills the air and mandolin, acoustic guitar, bass, and fiddle improvise on this rhythmic two-step.

Robinson’s pedal steel guitar is featured on the folk-rocker, “For Love,” before the group segues into the folksy “Day on the Sand.” As the group performs the song’s “The wind and the water/The sun and the air/A day of redemption/A day on the sand” lyric, the sun turns colors in the sky and red and orange lights begin to illuminate the stage.

Percussionist Carey Harmon starts off the group’s next number, “Where Songs Begin,” by laying down a solid funk-rock beat on the drums.

Andrew Altman joins him by playing a low funky bass line. Mike Robinson’s pedal steel guitar adds its voice, and acoustic guitars strum behind Sheaffer’s vocal on this mystical-sounding tune. Tim Carbone’s fiddle cries and John Skehan strums his mandolin on this country-rockin’ jam.

Audience members swing their partners to the countrified “Head” which features an extended jam with soaring mandolin, banjo, keyboard, acoustic guitar, upright bass, and screaming fiddle improvisations which bring hoots, hollers, cheers, whistles, and applause from the enthusiastic crowd on the beach.

As the band takes a break before continuing with an extended selection of tunes including “Lordy, Lordy,” “Mission Man,” “The Forecast,” “Captain Nowhere,” “Fisherman’s Blues,” “Dance Around Molly,” “Dandelion Wine,” “The Great Divide,” “Farewell to Isinglass,” and “Seven Story Mountain,” as well as encores of “Comes a Time,” and “It’s So Good,” we chat with several concertgoers who share their thoughts on tonight’s Railroad Earth experience.

Remarks Railroad Earth neophyte Amy, with whom we spoke before the show, “I like them — they’re fun!” explaining, “It’s good music to vibe to.” Her friend, Jaimie, comments, “I especially like the banjo and fiddle, but I like all the musicians,” before noting, “I’d like to come back for another show.”

Also new to the Railroad Earth experience is Dave from Toms River who reveals, “I’ve never seen Railroad Earth before, but I really enjoyed listening to the mandolin, banjo, pedal steel guitar, and fiddle — plus, to me, the lead singer has the perfect voice for this kind of music.”

Maureen from Toms River concurs, adding, “I like them, too! They’re really good, and I especially like how their music is appealing to the families here on the beach.”

Remarks Tom from Ortley Beach, “I listen to Railroad Earth on Sirius XM radio. I’m particularly impressed with the overall sound of the group, which sounds really crisp and clear — and this outdoor venue on the beach is pretty sweet!” Christine from Ortley Beach agrees, declaring, “I’d never heard of Railroad Earth, but they’re really good! I love all the acoustic instruments and I think it’s so cool to see all the rides behind them on stage,” before noting, “I like it so much, I’m planning to come back here to see America on August 6.”

Lastly, we chat with Kyle from San Jose, CA, who explains, “I’m here on vacation in Seaside Heights and, tonight, I just happened to stumble upon Railroad Earth. They’re my favorite band ever! I’ve seen them a bunch of times and I just love them.” Explaining, “Their musicianship is spot-on, and they have a great ‘homey’ vibe,” Kyle recalls, “I grew up on bluegrass music, but Railroad Earth is eclectic and they play all different genres — I wouldn’t even try to pigeonhole their sound, but what they perform is always organic,” before concluding, “For me, it’s just pure feel-good music!”

For information on upcoming Seaside Heights Live concerts on the beach — including America on August 6, Greensky Bluegrass on August 13, George Benson on August 14, and the Seaside Summer Freestyle Fest on August 17 — please click on seasideheightslive.com.

For info on free upcoming shows in Seaside Heights — including an AC/DC tribute by Dirty Deeds on July 28, October Rose on August 1, a Van Morrison tribute by Moondance on August 4, and Soul Shine, An Allman Brothers Experience Concert on August 25 — please click on exit82.com.

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