The Railsplitters: High-Speed, Fast Track, Crossing Over Genre and Time
For the Railsplitters, life is good these days. They took first place in Rockygrass's Best New Band competition, celebrated the release of their brand-new album, and are now in every touring group's second home: their trusty van, traveling the U.S. and bringing their music to new audiences.
It's no doubt prophetic that their new album is titled "The Faster It Goes," and that the kickoff song is "My mind is like / An old Tilt-A-Whirl / It never seems to stop / Even for this girl..."
But the high-speed message the Boulder quintet is spreading on the highway is not a conventional one. "The musical array is wildly eclectic, crossing over genre and time," one reviewer has said, "from boundary-breaking trip hop and electronica groups like Gorillaz and Thievery Corporation, to more direct influences like the Infamous Stringdusters and Lake Street Drive."
Another reviewer added, "The Railsplitters are pushing the genre forward with an adventurous spirit, carrying on the tradition of breaking boundaries with their innovative sound."
A big part of that sound (one reviewer called him "The Secret Weapon") is a banjoist and songwriter with a classic Colorado name: Dusty Rider. He is said to pull off the difficult feat of writing songs with the band in mind, but waiting until each product is entirely written in his head before sharing it.
"Using your roots to evolve is really at the heart of the genre," says 'Splitters vocalist Lauren Stovall. Even the great Bill Monroe, she points out, was a significant innovator. Stovall's vocals have won raves from critics, one of whom observes, "A voice as clean as Emmylou, as cutting as Allison Krauss, and carrying some of the attitude of Dolly herself."
Newcomer Joe D'Esposito's New-England style fiddling is praised as "adding new directions to the band's sound; mandolin and banjo player Peter Sharpe's playing is called "masterfully executed," and the quintet is rounded by Leslie Ziegler's "innovative and well-supported" upright bass.
The total package seen live has drawn superlatives from reviewers that could (and do) fill several pages, but perhaps Bluegrass Today says it best: "What do you do when a group has such an original sound that it's truly difficult to find a valid point of comparison? In the case of The Railsplitters, you praise them to the skies, because this young quintet from Colorado has developed a sound that manages to be both startlingly original and very exciting to listen to."