Colorado newgrass icons Drew Emmitt and Bill Nershi break away from their well-known respective groups, Leftover Salmon and String Cheese Incident, and return to their roots to form an exciting project that melds original bluegrass standards with progressive jamgrass flavors. With an excellent supporting cast in tow, this album is a must-own for any fan of the string band genre.
Basically the boys take the classic bluegrass aspects of LOS and SCI and strip them down to their essentials, creating a very classic sound they dub New Country Blues. The music may not be as enticing as their more popular groups, but the product of these extremely talented artists is quite fantastic in its own right.
The Emmitt-Nershi Band is completed by Andy Thorn on banjo and Tyler Grant on bass/guitars, who compliment the group with their impressive skills. However, the guest musicians on New Country Blues are the unsung heroes on this release. The band recruited fiddle master Jason Carter (Del McCoury Band) as well as Drew Emmitt Band percussionist Steve Sandifer to give the eleven songs on this album the exact ingredients needed for the payoff. Blue Highway front man and 10-time Dobro Player of the Year (IBMA) Rob Ickes and String Cheese Incident bassist Keith Moseley also show up, and show off on a few choice tunes.
Emmitt and Nershi trade off vocal duties on a few tracks such as the twangy "Road of Destruction" and the breezy "Costa Rica", and even show great melodic range evident on the beautifully haunting "These Days". However, the music is most interesting during the instrumental compositions where each musician gets the chance to display their craft in foot-stomping throw downs. This is represented by such tunes as "Mango Tango" and the excellent, riff-heavy "Flight of the Durban".
Another highlight from this release is the addition of "Restless Wind", an older song crafted by Nershi and made popular by String Cheese Incident. It is not as fiery as the SCI version, but the addition of Thorn's banjo and Carter's fiddle make this familiar number a delightful treat.
Drew Emmitt and Bill Nershi have experienced considerable success being in their high profile groups, and continue to perform on-and-off with those collectives. However, with the release of New Country Blues (and subsequent nationwide tour) it is clear that they are comfortable in this new family, and no doubt will continue to explore this affair for years to come.