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The Black Bear Sessions

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Album Review

Bluegrass enthusiasts Railroad Earth introduce a strong, rollicking twang on their debut, The Black Bear Sessions. It's lush with plucking fiddles, acoustic layers, and tight harmonies, especially on cuts like the delicate "Black Bear" and the country fusion of "Seven Story Mountain." Frontman Todd Sheaffer is a heartbreaker — personal lyrical accounts mold the simplistic nature of The Black Bear Sessions for something charming. It's not a traditional jam album either. It does, however, stick with an insistent beat, which is carefree and jovial. Railroad Earth expresses a positivity inside their music, and album opener Head exudes the most playful moment of the album. They're earnest, but studio production didn't fully shape the band's live potential. The quality is muffled, and the songs fall short of fully coming alive. Railroad Earth is a young band, though. Within time, they'll shape their progressive bluegrass twist into something bold and sonically gorgeous.


Formed: 2001 in Stillwater, NJ

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Railroad Earth emerged from the breakup of one of New Jersey's most popular bands, From Good Homes, in early 2001. Later that year, with appearances at some of the major summer festivals on the bluegrass circuit under their belt -- including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, and High Sierra Music Festival -- Railroad Earth showed that their music could go well beyond the realm of traditional bluegrass to incorporate folk, Celtic, jazz, and rock music. Todd Sheaffer, the...
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The Black Bear Sessions, Railroad Earth
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