Leftover Salmon Doubles Up at the Sheridan
Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt have more in common than a celebrated music project that dismembers the optimum pieces of mountain bluegrass and cajun rock: they take pride in doing it twice as hard as any other band in their lane. Nearly half a century into their upstream trek through the early festival and club circuits, the band that amalgamated from Herman’s Salmon Heads and Emmitt’s Left Hand String Band is still perpetuating their dramatic music narrative with fairly extensive touring and noteworthy studio releases.
The biggest change for the band has been the replacement of founding member and banjoist Mark Vann with a talented Andy Thorn. Following the untimely death of Vann in 2002, the band tried to regroup, but quickly found themselves entering a hiatus in 2004. While Helm put together the side project Great American Taxi, Emmitt connected with the String Cheese Incident frontman Bill Nershi to form the Emmitt-Nershi Band. A young Thorn was commissioned to add his picking skill set to the super duo’s efforts outside of their roles as linchpins in two legendary bands. Apparently proving he could do more than just hang at that level of play, the banjo player was promoted to the majors, and has been playing with Leftover Salmon full time since 2010.
The result has been an increased show schedule and overwhelming positive feedback from the other Leftover band members that seem delighted by the shot in the arm Thorn has given the band in the studio and on the road. The band’s latest release, Aquatic Hitchhiker, was the first in eight years and the sole studio effort to contain all original material. Produced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, who also plays on the album, Hitchhiker has a comfortable familiarity, and balances new influences from the member’s side projects and current listening research of the genre they made what it is today. In the spirit of multiplying the Salmon, the Leftover guys will once again hit the Sheridan Opera House for a highly anticipated two-night run on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Leftover Salmon, Tue.-Wed., Feb. 26-27, Sheridan Opera House, Telluride, 9 p.m., $30-35. sheridanoperahouse.com
Nosotros and Grant Farm Go Back-To-Back at the Moon
Last year Telluride Jazz Festival patrons only had one problem to face when the event ended. As each set came to an unwelcome end, it grew more difficult to determine which act was the best of the top tier talent performing throughout the weekend. When the festival promoters pressed fans to single out one band that stood out, it was New Mexico’s Nosotros and their Latin-soaked jazz funk that took top honors. Having been right in the center of the high energy dance pit that the Las Cruces musicians kick-started, I would be lying if I said this band did not pull off the sleeper set of the summer music season. Incredibly tight horns and non-stop onstage charisma had everyone from the front section to the chairs literally getting down. As a reward for their strong first impression, the guys have been invited back by the Telluride Jazz Society to headline the Winter Jazz Concert at Fly Me to the Moon Saloon. Taking their role as model performance musicians one step further, Nosotros will also participate in the Artists in the Schools educational program, comprised of two workshops at the schools: area youth will also get a rare chance to engage in informative and interactive music education with the band at The Palm Theater.
After Nosotros solidifies their place among Telluride’s favorites, another impactful act will stop through for their second performance at the Moon. Coming to us with a reputation that speaks of national flatpicking champion titles won, and being a member of the famed Emmitt-Nershi Band, is what brought guitarist Tyler Grant to a place in music where he could start doing his own thing. So he did what any aspiring young musician in the Front Range would do - he started his own band. The result is an assembled team of eclectic artists that include former Leftover Salmon drummer Chris Misner, funky phenom Adrian Engfer on bass and Sean Foley holding it down on keys duty. The foursome took their clean slate and drove it right into the heart of a diverse assortment of roots music when recording their self-titled debut. The resulting eleven tracks are an odd procession through modern Americana, twangy bluegrass and smooth lounge rock.
In the live setting the band draws on the tutelage they received from touring with members of the String Cheese Incident and the Drew Emmitt Band to form a tight, jam-out driven approach to playing. Last September the guys blazed through two relentless sets in a packed room of people that had never even heard the band before. Now with more six months of time on the road to build their catalog and hone their skills even sharper, expect Grant Farm to take it up a notch. My advice for this one is to grab tickets early and come ready to get rocked.
Nosotros, Fri., Feb. 22; Grant Farm, Sat., Feb. 23, Fly Me To The Moon Saloon, Telluride, 10 p.m., flymetothemoonsaloon.com
Tim O’Brien Trades Instruments During Solo Performance
The soulgrass revival innovator and charismatic Hot Rize frontman Tim O’Brien sat solitary on the large Sheridan Opera House stage, yet appeared comfortable and ready to play on Monday night. With nothing but a guitar, mandolin, fiddle, a new beard, and his dry humor, O’Brien switched between well executed classic originals, staple covers, and timeless gospel tunes during the two sets. When he wasn’t harmonizing with his stringed instruments, literally trading them out with ease as the mood struck, he would launch into random monologues about skiing Telluride, traveling in Europe, and picking with self-professed idols far advanced in their years. The line between the narratives in his songs and the stories he told blurred together. Highlights like “Crooked Road” and “Less and Less” only enhanced the personal anecdotes as the lyrics and tone matched his introspection. At one point he combined the two and literally picked and told a humorous tale about getting to trade licks with an 89 year old Doc Watson. Easily one of the more important figures in building the Colorado music environ, an intimate evening with him reinforced what everyone in Telluride already knows: Tim O’Brien is great.