Ten instruments, one tune

By Gus Bode

Railroad Earth makes a stop a Mugsy’s

Railroad Earth takes its name from a Jack Kerouac poem, “October Railroad Earth.” The band knew it was onto something big after only one practice.

Before the band had even played their first gig they were booked to perform at well-known venues and festivals. After three weeks, the phone was ringing with offers from record companies. In almost no time, a nationwide tour was in place.


Railroad Earth will be playing at Mugsy’s Entertainment Center on Friday, Aug. 23 at 9:30 p.m.

The band came together in January 2001 in rural western New Jersey. The songs are built around the singing and lyrics of Todd Sheaffer. Five of the ten songs on the recently released album, “The Black Bear Sessions” were originally recorded as a demo, but the quality of the album and immediate fans led to instant progress.

According to Bob Makin of Aquarian Weekly, “They are three of New Jersey’s most well-respected roots-rock musicians.”

The musicians include; Todd Sheaffer (vocals, and guitar), Tim Carbone (violin, acoustic guitar, and vocals), John Skehan (acoustic mandolin, acoustic guitar, and piano), Andy Goessling (acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, pennywhistle, and saxophone), Carey Harmone (drums, hand percussion, and vocals) and Dave Von Dollen (upright bass and electric bass).

The different instruments produce a blue grass, rock, jazz and Celtic combination. The song “Lordy Lordy,” has roots in Appalachian fiddle music. The blue grass turn was a surprise not just for Sheaffer, but also the rest of the group.

Todd Sheaffer said, “We started out just jamming in a barn, playing the music we loved.”

It was not until he was invited to an informal jam session that his musical career picked up again.


“That’s where Railroad Earth kind of started,” said Sheaffer. “It seemed like I ended up in the right place,” he said. “It seems like a natural place for my writing and music.”

“The crowds at our shows have been great,” said Sheaffer. “Dave Van Dollen and Carey Harmon like to see people dancing. It’s great to see people jump up and dance when we play. They really get into the groove of our music, as well as enjoying the melodic content.”

MTV’s Real World program licensed “The Black Bear Sessions” for use in upcoming episodes, and popular online magazine, “The Music Box” named Railroad Earth’s debut “one of the best 20 albums of 2001.”

When the band finally takes a break from the road it will begin work on a second album due out by next spring.

Reporter Jackie Keane can be reached at [email protected]