Breaking Up With Bluegrass: The Railsplitters’ Upcoming Album Pushes New Boundaries

By: Riley Ann

The Railsplitters return to the Fox Theatre for a homecoming show in Boulder this Wednesday, and it’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss. This homegrown Colorado band continues to explore the depths of bluegrass and isn’t afraid to cross the boundaries of people’s expectations. They’re sharing the bill with Front Country and Caribou Mountain Collective.

The Railsplitters. 

The Railsplitters. 

The Railsplitters gained national and international attention with their first two albums, which launched them on cross-country and international tours, including two tours through the UK and Germany. While their last album had pre-production support from Gabe Witcher, (fiddler of Punch Brothers) the current album is being produced by Kai Welch, a renowned Nashville producer who has worked with Abigail Washburn, the Molly Tuttle Band, and Front Country. Working with Welch was the next logical step for the band in their music careers. The attention they’re getting for their songwriting and performances warrants professionally produced albums, and they’re ready for the next big leap upward.

While their new album continues to cross-pollinate genres to their ever-evolving sound, the band keeps stretching its legs in performance environments, especially since touring with Yonder Mountain String Band. Lauren Stovall, guitarist and lead vocalist for The Railsplitters, described that experience saying, “Watching a band like that every night for two weeks straight was a huge influence. Seeing how they connected with their audience, we started experimenting with some of their approaches, like giving more time for breaks and jamming them out more. It really moved us out of our arrangements and into something more loose, giving us more time to riff off melodies and giving our listeners something to connect to better in a live setting.”

Watch The Railsplitters' live video for their song "Lessons I've Learned":

Aside from a new dimension of their live shows, the band has fresh tunes from their forthcoming record to share on Wednesday. Their third album still maintains their catchy pop-centric melodies and intricate instrumental lines. However, there’s an even greater interplay of soul, jazz, and pop music within their bluegrass roots on their upcoming release. Furthermore, the songs are steeped in social commentary about contemporary issues.

“It was sort of a subconscious thing, but we recorded the album, and when we listened back, we realized that several of the songs have political and feminist themes,” said Stovall. “Every album we’ve come out with has been different from the last, and this one has evolved even further. When we went into the studio this time, we came home at the end of the week saying, ‘What just happened- did we just break up with bluegrass?”’

The band is no stranger to breaking the rules of traditional bluegrass. While many people have specific expectations of bluegrass, newgrass, progressive bluegrass, and jamgrass also create expectations for listeners that don’t quite convey the sound of The Railsplitters, especially in their new album.

“Anybody that knows us and our music knows that we’ve been heading in this direction for a while. We still think of our band as a bluegrass band at heart, but we’ve always struggled with that title and know that other people struggle with that title for us as well.” said Lauren.

The band currently identifies as “unconventional bluegrass,” which they claim represents their hybridization of Coloradograss with their influences by bands from Boston and New York like the Punch Brothers, Lake Street Dive, and Joy Kills Sorrow.

Come out to The Fox on Wednesday and get a taste of their new tunes and their new vibe. You can find more information about The Railsplitters’ new album and upcoming tour dates on their website, and you can get tickets for Wednesday’s show here.

-Riley

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All slideshow photos per the author. All other photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.