Railroad Earth

Bird in a House

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Put the CD on, and it's not so much a sound heard once more as one that's completely reborn. In this case, that's the sound of the Gram Parsons-era Byrds. There's a fire, and sometimes frivolity in what Railroad Earth does that evokes more than the spirit, but without ever sounding like copyists; it's as if they've arrived at the same destination all by themselves, penning some glorious songs along the way, like the up-tempo "Drag Him Down," the spiritual quest of "Like a Buddha," and the fairly epic "Walk On By." But there's more going on, as you discover when you listen, with kalimba and clarinet in there somewhere, adding extra textures to the music. What they come up with can only be described as country-rock -- alt-country may be the moniker of choice these days, but the band's sound is more timeless, while at the same time utterly unique -- just cop the intro to "Like a Buddha," for example. Poppy enough to hold memorable choruses over rippling mandolins ("Mighty River"), and unafraid to make a small nod to Celtic territory ("Lois Ann"), it's a work of not only rare charm, but ageless beauty.

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