William Munoz

(Missoula Current) Railroad Earth, the latest lineup in Missoula's jam-band Americana musical scene, played The Wilma this week, delighting an audience of hipsters young and old.

Americana is broad and encompasses a number of musical forms including folk, blues, gospel, roots, country and bluegrass. Such styles have different origins, but they also have similar characteristics – the use of acoustic instruments, guitar, banjo and an upright bass.

Modern musicians have deep reverence for and draw inspiration from the past. The song lyrics relay stories that speak to the often-difficult human experience. Especially the Black spirituals coming out of slavery. Bluegrass and country, which originated in rural America in the 19th and 20th centuries, also depicted a life that was challenging and often precarious.

What has occurred over the past few decades has blended and borrowed from the various forms to enhance and enrich a newer sound.

The traditional bluegrass of Bill Monroe and bands like the Greenbrier Boys, and Flatt and Scruggs, was transformed in the 1970's by bands like the New Grass Revival. It was also incorporated into the music of the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan.

The Dead pioneered the jam-band scene, which would produce lengthy songs never played the same from one gig to the next. This style has been used by many bands that have recently played in Missoula – Yonder Mountain String Band, Infamous Stringdusters, Billy Strings and, this week, Railroad Earth.

This New Jersey band formed in 2001 and combines many different elements including progressive bluegrass, folk, rock and jazz. They're known for "carrying on the tradition of improvisational, genre-spanning music laid forth by the Grateful Dead.”

Of the five members of the band, 4 are original members including Todd Sheaffer on guitar and vocals (and the main song writer), Tim Carbone on fiddle, John Skehan on mandolin, and Carey Harmon on drums.

Andy Goessling who passed away in 2018, was replaced Dave Speranza.

This band appeals to multi-generations from boomers to gen-x sharing the energy and spirit of Americana music.

Railroad Earth at The Wilma