Hailing from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, The Railsplitters describe themselves as “unconventional bluegrass”, a fitting tag for this impressive five-piece. They can knock out traditional bluegrass with the best of them, but much of their repertoire tends to be a little more progressive, and all the better for it. With a classic line-up of banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar and double bass, The Railsplitters boast top notch instrumental playing, strong singing and high quality original songwriting. They draw on a broad range of influences including roots/Americana, modern pop and rock & roll, as well as bluegrass pioneers like Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs. With two albums under their belts, the band has received favourable reviews on both sides of the Atlantic as an excellent live act in recent years.
I was fortunate to host The Railsplitters on Friday for a concert at Marsden, Huddersfield, as part of my True North Music series of gigs. They impressed a sell-out audience at Marsden Mechanics, a fine old Victorian hall in the heart of the village. The rich and powerful voice of Lauren Stovall was a highlight of the set and superb fiddling from Christine King added driving energy. Masterfully executed mandolin (Peter Sharpe) and 5-string banjo (from the gloriously named Dusty Rider, also the chief songwriter) was backed by creative double bass playing by Leslie Ziegler, who added plenty of superb bowed bass as well as solid rhythm. In addition, all five band members showed themselves to be excellent singers, with Peter and Dusty taking occasional lead vocal duties, and some glorious harmony singing throughout.
Highlights for me were Railsplitters originals including Boarding Pass and Planted on the Ground (which they described as Crosby, Stills & Grass style), a scorching rendition of the Bela Fleck tune Down in the Swamp and several bluegrass/old time classics like Lonesome Feeling and Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss. The band effortlessly won over an audience which included a high proportion of local Friday-night revellers as well as a significant number of folk/bluegrass musicians and enthusiasts from across Yorkshire. Their stage presence was warm and engaging and they were lovely folk to deal with off stage too. The first three dates of the tour were sell-outs and as the word spreads they’re bound to be playing to more full houses as the tour continues over the next three weeks, culminating in appearances at the Shetland Folk Festival. Do yourself a favour and catch them on this run if you possibly can, The Railsplitters are a class act!
Review by: Maria Wallace
The Railsplitters: UK April Tour Dates
APRIL 12: NORWICH ARTS CENTRE, NORWICH
APRIL 14: JUMPIN HOT CLUB, NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE
APRIL 15: EASTGATE THEATRE, PEEBLES
APRIL 16: THE CATSTRAND ARTS CENTRE, NEW GALLOWAY
APRIL 17: HARBOUR ARTS CENTRE, IRVINE
APRIL 18: TRAVERSE THEATRE, EDINBURGH, UK (WITH BRONWYNNE BRENT)
APRIL 19: PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE, KILBARCHAN, UK (WITH LAURA CORTESE & THE DANCE CARDS)
APRIL 20: BUCCLEUCH CENTRE, LANGHOLM
APRIL 21: THE TOLBOOTH, STIRLING
APRIL 22: ROOTS MUSIC CLUB, THE UKRAINIAN CENTRE, DONCASTER
APRIL 23: LETHAM NIGHTS, FIFE
APRIL 24: THE BLUE LAMP, ABERDEEN
APRIL 28: SHETLAND FOLK FESTIVAL, SHETLAND
APRIL 29: SHETLAND FOLK FESTIVAL, SHETLAND
APRIL 30: SHETLAND FOLK FESTIVAL, SHETLAND
MAY 1: SHETLAND FOLK FESTIVAL, SHETLAND
Find out more at www.therailsplitters.com