Even by the eclectic standards of this year’s Celtic Connections, Railroad Earth seem so far out of kilter that by the end of the show, their presence almost makes sense.
It does, however, take some acclimatisation. Members of their entourage wander around waving streamers and sporting glow in the dark necklaces. The full complement of Scotland’s Grateful Dead tribute band, Workingman’s Deed, are assembled at the bar. It may not be 1969, but it certainly feels like it.
The music is clearly in massive debt to Garcia et al – with all the merits and drawbacks that entails.
On the plus side, there are some amazing five part harmonies on ‘Black Bear’ and ‘Railroad Earth’ that recall CSNY and a host of less accomplished country-rockers, and moments of intermittent brilliance both musically and melodically.
However, that the first six songs take the best part of fifty minutes to complete, says everything about the tendency to take one good idea and submerge it in excess musical baggage.
Even so, the encore, ‘Little Rabbit’ is typical of the good-natured, uplifting side of their work that makes for a more enjoyable evening than may have been expected. Indeed, the vibes at this happening were fairly pleasant.