Leftover Salmon | Fox Theater | Boulder, CO
Leftover Salmon, since 1989, started their four night run at the Fox in Boulder. Word is from Vince Herman this may be the end of road. He recently told the Daily Camera he is interested in pursuing politics, but is not ruling out a Salmon reunion.
From The Daily Camera:
'Yet Herman, who's mulling a post-Salmon career in Boulder County politics, suggests the group's announcement on its Web site last summer — which stressed that "the band is not breaking up, just taking a break" — may have been a little misleading.'
'"Well, you know, in the true Salmon way, when we put that up on our Web site, that was what it looked like we were gonna do — and we just haven't changed it," Herman, the group's frontman, says with a laugh. "But, yeah, I think we're pretty much done."'
'While Herman has done a little solo touring this fall, his immediate plans are non-musical: he and his wife are purchasing, and plan to operate, Nederland's Once Again Books. Still torn up by President Bush's re-election, Herman's also contemplating a career in politics.'
'"Well, I'll probably hold off on the presidency, but as fast as things are changing around here, I may consider running for office," Herman says. "I have some aspirations, but I'd hate to put anything into print that would make me look stupid by not pursuing."'
'And, of course, each is leaving the door open — at least nominally — to a Salmon reunion.'
'"We're stopping on a high note, and that definitely feels great," Emmitt says. "It's not like we've run ourselves into the ground, but 15 years is a long time to be out on the road. We're closing a chapter on our lives. I'm excited about it in a lot of ways.'
'"But remember, it's an open-ended decision."'
For over 15 years, Leftover Salmon has graced us with their polyethnic cajun slamgrass. These last shows promise lots of special guests and former band members. Some of the current members, include:
Finally, after nearly two years on the road, the new Leftover Salmon lineup is on record. The self-titled 'Leftover Salmon' is the band's first studio album where co-founders Drew Emmitt and Vince Herman show off how the beloved Colorado band has evolved since the arrival of banjoist Noam Pikelny, keyboardist Bill McKay, bassist Greg Garrison and drummer Jose Martinez.
"It's really brand new Leftovers," says Herman. "This is the first record since losing our brother Mark Vann, and it's the first studio recording with our new guys. We've got three guys with music degrees in the band now! So we've really been looking forward to doing an album together. It's really a big step in the evolution of the band."
The album, produced by longtime Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne, also illustrates how Leftover Salmon have progressed. "I've been saying that this is our first record for grown-ups," Herman laughs. "It definitely reflects how the band's sound has matured. There's less schtick. We still have a lot of fun, and there's still a lot of joy in our music. But there's also a serious aspect to what we're doing now, especially in the musical ability of the members and what we try to put across in the arrangements."
Indeed, the band has undergone immense changes since 1999's groundbreaking The Nashville Sessions. The death of banjoist and beloved co-founder Mark Vann and the addition of four new band members inherently brought on a new sound, especially for an improvisational band that derives so much of its creativity from the personalities of its musicians.
"It's definitely a new era," says Noam Pikelny, the newest and youngest member of the band. "This band has been an institution. I think anyone who has seen the band in the past will still recognize that a lot of the same elements are still there. But I also think they'll hear the difference."
As Herman puts it, "The band probably isn't as crazy and off-the-wall as it used to be. We still have a great time onstage, and the sheer joy of making music is still a big part of what we're about. But we're more focused on being musicians and on the arrangements now. We're still as fun and as eclectic as ever, but we're also more mature and more capable, too."
For this album, the band broke its pattern of inviting scores of musical guests to participate. This time, Leftover Salmon decided to focus on their own special ensemble play. The only instrumental guest is the producer, who adds a spicy piano track to "Whispering Waters". "How could you have Bill Payne in the studio and pass up the chance to get him to play on your record," Herman points out. Singer K.C. Groves adds harmony on "Woody Guthrie", but otherwise the band goes it alone.
"We purposely kept the guests down to a minimum," Herman says. "We've always enjoyed the chance to play with other musicians that we admire. But we're also real proud of this band and how it sounds, so we decided to keep the focus on the group this time."
The new album provides proof of how the band remains eclectic and adventurous as well as how it has evolved musically. Five of the six band members contribute songs, from Pikelny's newgrass instrumental "Lincoln & Nevada" to Bill McKay's blues-rock vamp "Just Keep Walkin'", and from Drew Emmitt's New Orleans-inspired, jaunty rocker "Delta Queen" to Emmitt's folk-based "Weary Traveler".
"We're definitely still chameleon-like in that regard," Herman explains. "All of us grew up loving different kinds of music, and we all love that we're in a band that allows us the chance to play different kinds of music. We're basically a rock 'n' roll bluegrass band, but that means we can play everything from folk and bluegrass songs to anything that falls under the big banner of rock."
In talking about growth, Herman mentions the new song "Woody Guthrie," an unusual foray into political and social commentary by the band. "It's such a departure from what we've done," says Herman, who wrote the song. "I had second thoughts about putting it on the album, but the guys talked me into it. We've been doing it live, at least during our more acoustic shows, and it goes across real well."
Herman's reference to "acoustic shows" indicates another aspect of the band's breadth. In 2003, the band took part in a critically acclaimed tour with bluegrass giants the Del McCoury Band and released an album with the rock band Cracker. Similarly, the band plays both folk and rock festivals, and they've performed in elegant theaters and in grungy rock clubs. Leftover Salmon is the rare band with a broad enough sound and a large enough repertoire to shape its set list to fit the crowd and the venue.
"We're a little strange that way, but we know that there are live settings where some songs work better than others for us," Herman says. "When we're playing a theater, we can bring our more folk-based side. But when we're in a rock club, and the crowd is grooving along having a good time, you don't want to break the mood and sing a song about agriculture policy."
Still, the earthy quality and back-to-nature character of the band's music continues to shine through. That aspect of the group is evident in the song titles, including "Mountain Top," "Down in the Hollow," "Whispering Waters" and "Last Days of Autumn." "We didn't realize we had this outdoors theme running through the album until we were finished," Herman says. "It wasn't intentional, but it's one of the threads running through the album. It fits our personality – after all, Salmon are out there in the wild world."
As the first album since signing with Compendia Records, Leftover Salmon are eager for fans and for new listeners to hear how the band has evolved. "We're still just as delirious as ever at having the opportunity to make music for a living," Herman says. "But we've grown up a bit, and we've learned a lot about the music business and what works for us. We still believe that live music is as essential as ever, that it can change lives and save the world. We're certainly having as much as we've ever had."
Check out Leftover Salmon's Discography.