Paul Shapiro, on bass and high harmonies, takes the deadpan lead through the twisted genealogy of "I'm My Own Grandpa." Fiddler Dick Dieterle sings bass and leads on hymns and sacred songs, while Will Spencer fills in on baritone and adds his sparkling banjo and Dobro.
And when their voices are quiet, the Boys pump out rousing versions of an eclectic batch of instrumentals. "The Irish Washerwoman" starts out sedately, keeping to the pace at which most Irish bands play it, but speeds up with each repeat, Dick egging the Boys on to new land speed records in every concert. Will's virtuoso solo banjo version of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" morphs into the old-timey fiddle tune "Soldier's Joy."
Although offstage the Boys all live typical modern lives, their music and jokes evoke a simpler time. "Orange Blossom Special," the granddaddy of all train songs, has been their closer for more than thirty years. And while railroads have a precarious place in the American countryside, the RFD Boys who return to the Ark on Friday, March 12, to perform a benefit for the Leslie Science Center show no sign of going away.
[Originally published in March, 2004.]