ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 15, 2002
By Steve Newton
I’d never actually heard Leftover Salmon until two weeks ago, when a copy of The Nashville Sessions came across my desk. That’s when I knew I’d really been missing something. On that 1999 disc, the self-styled “polyrhythmic Cajun slamgrass” group from Colorado is captured in the company of such roots-music stalwarts as Lucinda Williams, Taj Mahal, Waylon Jennings, banjo pioneer Béla Fleck, accordionist Jo-El Sonnier, Dobro ace Jerry Douglas, bluegrass king Del McCoury, harpist John Popper of Blues Traveler, John Bell from Widespread Panic, Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd & the Monsters, and organist Reese Wynans from Double Trouble.
After experiencing The Nashville Sessions all I could think was “This should have won a Grammy,” so when Leftover Salmon vocalist-guitarist Vince Herman calls from a Kansas highway, I tell him that. “Well, thanks, man,” he replies with a surprised chuckle. “You know, it was like a venture onto the musical Fantasy Island for us, and just making it was enough of a reward for us.”
The Nashville Sessions was not a big hit, or even a minor one. It seems that the band’s label at the time, Hollywood Records, didn’t really know what to do with it. “It was kind of a roots record at a time when the label was really startin’ to do the boy-band thing,” notes Herman. “You know, we are a boy band—it’s just we’re all in our 30s and 40s.”
Maybe so, but the guys in Leftover Salmon still know how to cause a ruckus, as locals will discover when the sextet plays Richard’s on Richards on Monday (August 19) and Garfinkel’s in Whistler on Tuesday (August 20). The recent addition of former Derek Trucks Band keyboardist Bill McKay has brought more of a “southern-blues boogie-woogie” edge to the group, which Herman founded with mandolinist-guitarist Drew Emmitt and banjo player Mark Vann 12 years ago. The band’s latest CD, Live, was dedicated to Vann, who died of cancer last March.
“The record’s kind of a tribute to him,” says Herman, “and that’s why we’re callin’ it Live, you know—he really exemplified living big and leading the way with music. So it’s been real tough for us since Mark passed, having played with him for so long, but he was real adamant that we keep goin’ with what we love to do. The music’s been quite a comfort, really, and in pursuing it we get a lot of support from our fans and friends out there. So we’re plowing ahead, you know.”