By Larry Stephens
The Railsplitters’ website says they “have been scaling new heights with a refreshing and charming range of bluegrass and beyond-bluegrass music.” Other than using instruments that are typically found in a bluegrass band, it’s mostly far beyond.
Their music is out somewhere in newgrass mixed with some jazz and maybe some Americana. “It’s A Little Late” is a good example. There’s very interesting instrumental work and an ear–catching arrangement on this lost-love-and-moving-on song written by bandmember Dusty Rider (banjo). He’s credited as writer on most of the tracks, with mandolinist Peter Sharpe adding “The Estuary,” an easy–moving instrumental that could fit a bluegrass mold and could be considered a third cousin to “Ashoken Farewell” in mood and feel. He composed another instrumental, “Goosetown,” that’s jazzier and more upbeat and a very interesting piece. Arranging is clearly a strength for the Railsplitters. Sharpe and Rider put their heads together for “Tell Me,” my favorite track. It has a ’60s rock melody and feel.
You’re going to hear some creative and masterful upright bass on this CD from Leslie Ziegler and her 1920s German upright with great tone. She co–wrote “Tilt–A–Whirl,” a love song with a pop sound and some arco bass. Lauren Stovall (guitar) co-arranged “Salt Salt Sea” and sings the lead on this track. Christine King is the fifth member of the band and is an accomplished fiddle player.
“Seasons” has some country-style guitar picking, and they do cover one bluegrass number that’s been around for many years, “Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes,” but the Railsplitters are making music somewhere on the far edges of the bluegrass stratosphere.