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Simply SARATOGA, Spring 2023


If you’ve never attended a performance by Jim Gaudet and the Railroad Boys, you’re missing out on one of the Capital Region’s true musical treasures. Since 2006, The Railroad Boys—comprised of singer/songwriter Jim Gaudet on guitar, Bobby Ristau on upright bass and backing vocals, Sten Isachsen on mandolin and backing vocals, Sara Milonovich or Tucker Callander on fiddle, and ‘Upstate’ Richie Pagano on piano—have been playing festivals and venues, big and small, all over the country. Their original music, driving energy, and camaraderie have attracted many a guest artist over the years, and in January 2023, following founding member Bobby Ristau’s retirement, the group welcomed Bob Buckley into the fold.

When asked how the band’s name came about, Gaudet chuckles. “There’s no real significance. The first song I ever wrote for the band happened to be called The Railroad Boys, and somehow we latched on to that. I didn’t want my name attached, but I was outvoted on that one.”

Jim Gaudet writes nearly all The Railroad Boys songs, but pinning down the band’s genre can be tricky. Although it started out bluegrass, its style has morphed over time into what Gaudet calls “hillbilly rock ‘n roll.” Still, limiting this band to just one label seems a disservice because, in his songwriting, Gaudet does it all: Americana-roots, classic and outlaw country, Southern rock, honky-tonk, blues, Cajun. You name it, he’s probably done it. In fact, last April at the 4th annual Capital Region Thomas Edison (aka Eddies) Music Awards ceremony at Proctors Mainstage, Jim Gaudet and the Railroad Boys were honored to win Country/Bluegrass Artist of the Year.

Gaudet entered the local spotlight in 1990, playing solo ‘covers’ at open mic nights at Albany’s Eighth Step and Saratoga’s Caffè Lena, a venue he still enjoys playing several times each year. A storyteller and songwriter at heart, Gaudet began composing his own music and lyrics. Eventually, his success as a solo artist performing original songs led to him being signed with an independent label out of New York City. But after Gaudet and his wife, Peg, welcomed son, Jimmy, and daughter, Mary, the demands of his agented performance schedule became too much. Given his full-time employment with the NYS Department of Social Services and his desire to be there to enjoy raising his kids, he decided to take a break from music.

Gaudet has no idea how many songs he’s written, but the thrill of creating never wanes. “I’m always checking out YouTube and WEXT,” he says. “I get a lot of ideas by listening to what other performers and songwriters are doing and learning from them.” Some songs come together quickly. Others, like A Girl Like You from Gaudet’s recent solo album, REAL STORIES, take their time. That gorgeous song came together “in bits and pieces” over a period of 30 years!

The fact that audiences connect more readily with well-known, time-tested cover tunes presents The Railroad Boys with a unique challenge. “Since we play mostly original songs, we try to connect with every new audience by getting them involved lyrically,” Gaudet explains. “In writing something new, I’ll often take a couple of catchy, easily remembered phrases—like ‘She never said, and I never asked’—and go from there.” In his song Darkside of Lonesome, Gaudet incorporates roughly a dozen well-known idioms and Bible verses. The familiarity of the lyrics draws people in, making them feel at ease and a part of the show.

Gaudet has a uniquely animated, conversational style of singing, his tone every bit as original as the songs he writes. Clear diction, an abundance of good humor, and vocal inflections that follow each song’s emotional arc make you feel like you’re talking with a good friend over the back fence. Gaudet can growl, yowl, even yodel with the best of them, and when he belts out a snappy “Hey!” between verses, you can feel the room’s energy surge. Jim Gaudet and the Railroad Boys have a ton of fun onstage. Their friendship is palpable and, better yet, totally audience-inclusive.

In 2019, Gaudet released his first solo album since 2007. A departure from the band’s full-bodied sound, REAL STORIES AND OTHER TALL TALES is Jim Gaudet at his storytelling best, pared down and vulnerable. The album includes 13 songs never intended for the Railroad Boys, as well as a 15-page booklet providing backstory and lyrics for every song. Masterfully produced by Greg Anderson, the CD also features the artistry of Sara Milonovich on harmony vocals and fiddle and Richie Pagano, working his magic at the piano.

“I treasure this CD,” Gaudet says. “But the timing of its release worked against widespread exposure because the pandemic struck, venues closed, and gigs were cancelled. Still, I’d love to get it out there more. It’s very close to my heart.”

In 2011, Jim Gaudet was clinically diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Thankfully, however, its progression has been slow. “Some days are harder than others,” he admits, “but they’re all good.” Managing the disease involves maintaining a rigorous medication schedule, coordinating meals and protein intake around his meds, doing yoga and meditation, vocalizing daily, and getting plenty of exercise, including weekly boxing sessions at Schott’s Gym, Albany.

Presently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s, and Gaudet certainly has his darker moments. But he gratefully attributes his ability to keep living a full life to three things: his music, his wonderful bandmates, and the loving support of his wife and family.

“Both our kids live nearby, and our daughter blessed us with our first grandchild late last year. We’ve waited a long time for that,” he beams, “and we are thrilled.”

Musically, Gaudet never wants to go a day without playing his guitar. “Yet sometimes I pick it up and can’t play at all. I’d love to be doing some solo shows, but the tremors make that impossible. When they kick in and my left arm cramps up—it’s always the left—there’s no coping, no answers. I’ve been lucky so far, though, in that I’ve generally been able to time my medication to work with my performance schedule.”

Jim Gaudet loves what he does, and it shows. For bandmates and fans alike, he puts his all into every performance. “Two or three years ago,” he reflects, “I never imagined I’d still be playing at this point. Even six months ago, I thought December ’22 would be it. But I’m still out there—still writing, singing, playing. If God has given me another day, I have to make a choice: is it a day to squander or make the most of?”

Without question, Gaudet has chosen the latter. And we’re really glad he has.

To learn more, visit jimgaudet.com/ or facebook.com/Railroadboys/


by Amy Biancolli, Friday, October 11, 2019, The Albany Times Union Newspaper

Jim Gaudet had a record player and a radio in his childhood bedroom  (photo: shows Jim Gaudet in his childhood bedroom on Kakely Street)  on Albany’s Kakely Street, a cozy nook with pitched ceilings and walls covered with images of his beloved New York Giants.

Upstairs in his room, he listened to music — Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Steve Gillette.

“This is where I first heard them,” he says. And this is where he first sat with his guitar, late last year, to lay down tracks for his newest album: “Real Stories and Other Tall Tales,” the fourth solo project for the longtime singer-songwriter-guitarist and frontman with the Railroad Boys.

“This was recorded in the bedroom that I grew up in,” Gaudet says, sitting downstairs from the room in question, a copy of the CD on the table beside him. “It’s crazy, yes. Yes. It’s a little different, I know. And it wasn’t planned. It just happened.”

He and his wife of 37 years, Peg, still live in that white brick house on Kakely. There they raised their kids, Jimmy and Mary. And it’s there, on a sunny Tuesday morning, that Gaudet sits down to talk about his latest album and his eight years of living with Parkinson’s, a disease that less confines him than kicks him out the door to live in spite of it.

“I’ve been so fortunate in the way it’s progressed for me, because it’s been a fairly slow progression, thank God. I do what they say to do – and it’s keep moving. One of the great quotes is the disease has a difficult time hitting a moving target,” he says. “So I try to keep moving.”

He gets out. Connects with people. Exercises as much as possible, sometimes with CDPHP’s Silver Sneakers program, sometimes with the Hope Soars organization that offers aid and community to people with Parkinson’s. He’s done yoga. Craniosacral therapy, a meditative, light-touched approach that puts him in a state of deep calm. Boxing, which he loved and fantasized about as a kid but hadn’t ever tried. Not until Parkinson’s.

At first, he just flailed at the heavy bags. Now he hits the speed bags. “I’m great now,” he says of his pugilistic skills. “I can knock anybody out.”

He and Peg laugh. Gaudet is, as she points out, a lifelong athlete. An alumnus of the long-gone Cardinal McCloskey High School, he played football for Siena, then basketball at the University of New England in Maine (formerly St. Francis College). After graduating he taught a bit, then coached a bit of football, then took a temporary job with New York state social services. “I was never gonna work for the state — ‘not gonna do a state job, not gonna do it’ – so I go into the six-month position, and, like, 30 years later, I retire.”

All along, he’s made music — launching into a singer-songwriter career in the 1980s, then forming the Railroad Boys in 2006. Featuring Bobby Ristau on bass, Sten Isachsen on mandolin and guest fiddlers, including Sara Milonovich and Tucker Callander, the band has churned out multiple albums filled with catchy, twangy tunes that defy pat categorization.

Call it Americana-roots, Gaudet says. Or “hillbilly rock n’ roll.” Whatever it is, it’s earned a devoted local fan base, international airplay and appearances at bluegrass festivals – even though they don’t play bluegrass — around the country. Locally they gig all over, including a Hope Soars benefit at Caffe Lena a few weeks back, a monthly first Monday at McGeary’s in Albany and an upcoming show Oct. 25 at the Cock and Bull in Galway.

“Gig-wise, date-wise, I didn’t think I’d be performing at this point in time, but I still am,” he says. “And I’m gonna keep going until the wheels come off.”

Music is healing, he says. Singing helps.

“Vocally, eventually I’ll lose my voice. And they say, ‘Well, what you need to do is screaming therapy.’ So I sing, you know. Which isn’t that much different from screaming therapy.” He laughs again.

Sometimes – as on this Tuesday morning — Gaudet’s body is tranquil. At other times, without warning, Parkinson’s rears its head. “It’s so unpredictable, this disease. You know, one day I’ll go through my medications on schedule, and everything will be fine. I won’t really show the tremors, the medicine won’t wear off. And other days, it’s not working. And my biggest fear is when I get onstage and my left hand has got the tremors. I mean, my forearm cramps up.”

When that happens, he can still play – but it bothers him, and he can’t speak as well. “I get defused. I lose my – you know, whoever I thought I was. A big star. A rock star.” But he soldiers through.

“Real Stories” is Gaudet’s first solo project since 2007’s “Recalling it Quits,” and it’s warm, gravelly and wise. Runaway, runaway, runaway, runaway train / It’s the only thing left when there’s nothing left to blame. Some of the songs were written years ago, pre-Parkinson’s. Some were written after. The album came to be when Gaudet, singing a tune in a songwriter’s circle at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Greene County, snagged the attention of Beacon-based producer Greg Anderson, who later drove up to record Gaudet at Kakeley Street.

“He goes around the house, and he’s clappin’ and makin’ sounds” — to decide which room had the best acoustics — “and he found the back bedroom. So, you know, I said, ‘great.’ And we recorded in there, and it wasn’t until later that it dawned on me that it was actually the room I grew up in.”

That was back in November 2018. For the next three months, Gaudet’s vocal and guitar tracks were laid down right there, up in that space now bright with sun and stacked with books. The other tracks were added later, back at the studio: Milonovich on fiddle, Tommy McDonnell on percussion and harmonica, Rich Pagano on piano, Anderson on varied instruments.

Did it feel weird, recording in his old room? “No,” Gaudet says. “No. Nope.” Did it feel natural? “Yes. Yes, I would say. Because I was very calm and relaxed – and that’s what, I think, he was looking for.”

Gaudet has no idea how long he’s got before the Parkinson’s sidelines him, but in the time he has left, he plans to go for it. Up next: A new album with the Railroad Boys, which they’ll probably start recording early next year. Beyond that, a collaboration with Nashville songwriters he met a few weeks ago at a meeting of the International Bluegrass Music Association down in Raleigh. That could be a massive break.

Meanwhile, he just keeps writing. He’s always at the computer, Peg says. Always churning out songs. A big fan of “Hamilton,” she quotes the tune “Non-Stop”: Why do you write like you’re running out of time? “That’s how Jim is now,” she says. “It’s like … frenetic. But it’s good.” He laughs in agreement. “It’s good! It’s good!”

Gaudet wants his story to get out there. He wants the senior community to take heart. He wants people with Parkinson’s to keep living, keep moving, don’t let it stop them. His message: “Just to not let it affect you. Just keep going. And if you have to start something new in your life that you’ve never done before — as far as exercise or anything — just go do it.” In an odd way, Parkinson’s has broadened his world, pushed him outward.

Early on, he felt differently. “I did say, ‘Oh, I have Parkinson’s, I probably shouldn’t be doing that, or I can’t do that.’ And — ” He exhales, long and loud. “I don’t know. Little by little, I just gained confidence and said, wait a minute — and I put to the test ‘One day at a time.’ You know what I mean? … I would always speak it before, but I didn’t have to actually live it.”

His attitude, these days: “I’m here to today, I feel all right, and it looks like I’m gonna have a day. Another day!” Gaudet smiles with something close to amazement. “That’s how I keep going. I wake in the morning and go, ‘Well, it looks like I have to go through it again! And again!”

And so, each day, he gets out of bed and makes some music.

“I don’t know how to do anything else. I don’t want to do anything else. I have no real drive but to write another song, you know,” he says. “I always want to write another song.”







Jim Gaudet and The Railroad Boys with special guest Sara Milonovich on fiddle will be performing a special show this coming Thursday night, August 15, at Caffe Lena, 47 Phila Street, Saratoga Springs, NY. Thursday’s show is to benefit “Hope Soars”, a Parkinson’s support organization. The show starts at 8:00 pm. 
Tickets: https://nvite.com/caffelena/b3b95


Friday night, February 24, will find Jim and The Railroad Boys with special guest Sara Milonovich on fiddle, excited to be performing at the newly remodeled Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, NY.

The Caffe could still use our help in supporting the Campaign for Caffe Lena.  With our help, this important cultural institution will continue to preserve American music traditions, foster creativity, and nourish the community for many years into the future.


Mary Burdette, Assistant Director of The Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival has authored a wonderful article regarding Jim and The Railroad Boys connection and progression through the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival.  The article titled, “Accidental Convergence Leads to Albany Band’s Success”, traces the band’s path via Jim’s song writing through the eye of The Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival.

Click here to read the article.


The Railroad Boys CD, “Reasons That I Run” is on Pandora Internet Radio!  Sign up and accounts are free!  Then just type in Jim Gaudet and The Railroad Boys to start listening to the Boys and many other artists with a similar style/sound/genre.  http://www.pandora.com/ 

All four of our latest CDs are playable now on Spotify!!