- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2003

Back in 1989, when All Mighty Senators started playing parties at the Maryland Institute, its members didn't really have a clue about where their music would take them over the next 10 years.
"It was the art school scene," remembers guitarist Warren Boes. "We started as a fun thing, to try to get people to dance and have a good time. We were all just learning to play."
That was then. Tomorrow night, All Mighty Senators will be opening for the legendary Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders at the 9:30 Club. Both bands have new albums out; the Pretenders are touting "Loose Screw," while AMS has its soon-to-be-released CD, "Music is Big Business." In fact, hearing that album is what caused Miss Hynde to give the group the gig.
"It's another level of professionalism for us," says Mr. Boes, who studied at Boston's Berklee College of Music. "We're really excited about taking this step."
Over the years, changes of personnel have caused this "rock and soul" band to explore different types of music. There's more of a jazz vibe now, synthesizers, and a tighter, more focused approach to their sound.
But that doesn't mean they've forgotten their roots.
"The core of the band is still rock 'n' roll," says Mr. Boes.
And band members still call Baltimore home.
"Baltimore doesn't always have a great reputation, so we're trying to do what we can to change that," says Mr. Boes. "We're proud to be from here."
Listen to "Music is Big Business," though, and you'll hear nods to folks usually associated with a little further down I-95, like George Clinton, Parliament Funkadelic and even Chuck Brown. But the grand total is all AMS. Part of that sound stems from Dave Finnell's soulful horn. And more than a little of the vibe results from the fact that this particular combination of band members has been playing together for years.
"We're real solid with each other," says Mr. Boes. "We anticipate each other's moves when we improvise we've kind of got this telepathy type thing going on."
Big sound and catchy lyrics are not the only things to like about All Mighty Senators. There's also the power they want to bring out in their audiences.
"Part of the band's idea is that everyone has some sort of power within," says Mr. Boes. "They just don't always know where it is."
Go to a concert and you're likely to find band members wearing quasi-superhero get-up. Lead vocalist and drummer Landis Expandis is especially known for the ease with which he works the crowd into a frenzy, as well as for his over-the-top superhero costumes. (They're homemade.) It's all part of finding the superpower within.

The vibe will be a little different tomorrow night at the State Theatre in Falls Church, where The Recipe and Railroad Earth are double billed. Both are known for the high-energy roots music that has made them favorites on the festival circuit. But no matter how cold it is outside, you can expect that folks will be dancing in the aisles just the same.
The Recipe, out of Morgantown, W.Va., cites the Grateful Dead and Willie Nelson among its many influences. Over the years the self-described "Appalachian roots rock" band has been known to practice its own brand of "hillbilly mayhem" (read high-energy stage presence). They've also kept up a fairly frenetic touring schedule, resulting in a rabidly loyal fan base, whose members call themselves "Porch People."
Railroad Earth's new album, "Bird in the House," has been earning raves since its debut last year. The album brings to fruition what most fans of Railroad Earth already know: that having the right musicians in the right place at the right time can bust the seams of just about any studio session right open.
High praise indeed for a group that's only been around since January 2001. But the musicians have been making music, albeit separately, for far longer.
"We all knew each other," says lead singer guitarist Todd Sheaffer, who spent years as frontman for From Good Homes. "Some of us have even played together on other projects. But for this, something just clicked."
So what is Railroad Earth exactly? The band is a without-limits, hard-to-categorize group that manages to flirt with different genres while remaining true to itself as an entity. The name, incidentally, comes from a Jack Kerouac poem, "October in the Railroad Earth," which bandmates heard on a spoken-word disc on Rhino Records.
The band certainly owes much to the likes of Bill Monroe, Dave Bromberg, and other musicians, who used to breeze through Mr. Sheaffer's hometown in Sussex County, N.J.
"They got me interested in the world of bluegrass," says Mr. Sheaffer. "A lot of great music came through the area in those days. I learned about whole worlds of other music."
So you can look for rock 'n' roll here as well. There's even a hint of the Celtic thrown in, thanks to the years spent with guitarist Jack Hardy in New York.
"I learned a lot from him about songwriting," says Mr. Sheaffer. "And when people say they hear a bit of the Irish in my music, I tell them that it comes from Jack."


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