LIVE: Jim Gaudet and the Railroad Boys @ The Linda, 07/15/2021

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ALBANY — “Authenticity” is a prized commodity, and in such short supply– that’s why when you see it, you’re stunned. That’s also why when you see it in a musical performer, it’s doubly stunning because then it’s married to a universal, tribal urge: to soothe and rouse us with song.

Singers are our modern day shaman, leading us in ritual. Our healers and sorcerers. (That should probably be shaperson.)  If it’s a frenzied, dervish song, that’s even better. All of which goes a long way to explaining why Jim Gaudet has been and will always be, as long as he keeps fronting the whiz-kids in the Railroad Boys’ current incarnation, a mesmerizing performer to watch.

Jim Gaudet’s a humble guy, perhaps a few steps off-kilter, warmly engaging. He’s absolutely on fire when in the throes of one of his whipsawing tunes, which have a characteristic syncopated, minimalist wordplay: catchy phrases delivered with precise, offhand timing. It’s all kind of the same, but that can be a very good thing. All punchy and pumping and friendly and familiar. He’s got the good sense and grace to sometimes stand back, actually retreating to the rear of the stage, while his stellar henchmen Sten Isachsen and Tucker Callandar duke it out on mandolin and fiddle. With himself on guitar and Bob Buckley sitting in on bass, he’s created an entire complete bluegrass universe, and it is a thrilling place.

Of course, The Linda’s peerless, outstanding management and crew lend an elegant aura to the proceedings. His loyal fan base needs no prompting to join in the call and response song “So Far So Good,” and his new songs, debuted that night, were every bit the zing-laden equals to his catalog. On a few rare occasions, he paused as the band wailed on, searching for a lyric that never showed up, only to join in as the chorus came around, and at times his eyes searched off into a glinty distance at the haunted, frightened trees… but at that moment we realized: we are all mortal.

This exuberance is always meant to be fleeting and that makes it all the more precious. He’s also got a cardboard sign that wraps around his mic stand, proclaiming the name of his group, in gaudy old fashioned lettering. There’s a deep Americanacore angle here. A brand new song about moonshiners outrunning the “revenuers”? Somehow this profoundly retro reference fit right in. For a brief moment, we believe we’re in a juke joint, it might be the 1930’s, and this haggard man before us is a road-weary vagabond. The real deal.

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