By Alan Crandall, Previously published at the DailyCamera.com
After last year’s successful release of their first album in eight years, Aquatic Hitchhiker, Leftover Salmon has been enjoying continued touring success. Formed in Boulder in 1989, the slamgrass pioneers have firmly established themselves on the festival and jam-grass circuit and show no indication of slowing down. In fact, they teamed up with Breckenridge Brewery last summer to release four new songs.
The Camera recently caught up by phone with Drew Emmitt, who was in Crested Butte. The Leftover Salmon co-founder, vocalist and fiddle, mandolin and guitar player talked about the band’s new drummer, its music and annual Thanksgiving shows this weekend at the Boulder Theater.
RMJ: I first saw your new drummer, Alwyn Robinson, performing with Leftover Salmon earlier this summer in Asheville, N.C. How has he adjusted now that he has taken over Jose Martinez’s full-time drumming duties?
Really great … he has a grip on the Salmon repertoire, which is extensive, so that is definitely a great thing.
RMJ: The four new songs are “Get up and Go,” “High Country,” “Thornpipe” and “Two Highways.” Did you write “Two Highways,” and if so, did the inspiration come from your busy touring schedule?
I did. Being on the road and being home are two different worlds, and that’s an idea that’s been in my head for a long time — and trying to put that into a song, those two different realities. It just came to me one night. I was up late and I just couldn’t sleep and I was sitting by the fire and I got the idea and jotted it down.
RMJ: “High Country” is an Andy Thorn creation?
That’s all Andy. He came up with that on a hike. And he’s an adventure freak. He gets out and he lives life. Since he’s moved to Colorado it’s just been one adventure after another for him.
RMJ: For the upcoming Boulder Theater shows, Little Feat’s Bill Payne is on the bill. Has Payne played with Salmon in the past?
We first met Bill when we did some shows with Little Feat some years ago. And then when we made our last LS record, before our break; we got Bill to produce it. It was great working with him on that record. He played on one of the songs, “Whispering Waters,” and did a fantastic job. Then we brought him out for Telluride Bluegrass two years ago, and it was really great to have him for that.
RMJ: What’s it like to come back and play for your hometown fans?
For one thing, playing the Boulder Theater is a really wonderful time; it’s a great venue and it’s always great coming home. And Vince (Herman, a Salmon co-founder/vocals/guitar/washboard) doesn’t live (in Colorado) anymore; he lives in Oregon. I think it’s a big homecoming for him, as well. And it’s such a festive time, you know, right after Thanksgiving, starting off the Christmas holiday, and the winter season.
RMJ: We have previously discussed the birth of Leftover Salmon, about 24 years ago, teaming your band, The Lefthand String Band, with Vince Herman’s Salmon Heads band. How did Vince come up with the name of Salmon Heads?
We were actually living in the same house in Gold Hill, and Vince was the seafood manager for King Soopers. Not making a lot of money at the time, he would bring home salmon heads because, after they cut the head off, there was still some meat attached to them. And he would bring the salmon heads home and chop the meat off, and there you go. He would get these free salmon heads. … Well, one day, he and his friends… took a bunch of these salmon heads out in the yard and put them on sticks and took pictures of them. And then when they started this new band, they needed a name. And so, that was the inspiration, that experience.
RMJ: I see that Leftover Salmon will return Strings & Sol String festival in Tulum, Mexico. How fun is it to play a string summit like that?
Well it’s just totally different to do a gig like that, in a different country. You are playing basically on the beach which is pretty cool. And, you know the other bands involved are definitely a lot of our good buddies and there’s a lot of inter-mingling that happens. It’s a great break from the norm for sure.
RMJ: Who’s idea was it to book shows in Hawaii in January, that seems brilliant?
Well it’s actually something I’ve been pushing our management to do for about the last three years. It finally happened, I’ve been riding our manager’s back a bit for this one. (laughs) I was in Hawaii last year with my family and I just thought if we could somehow turn this into a gig then we could have a paid vacation so it’s something we’re trying to establish and do every year.
RMJ: lets talk about your equipment you always have an arsenal of instruments can you run down for us what you are currently playing and if you like one guitar for rock tunes and another for bluegrassy songs?
On the past tour I had my Gibson 335, my Gibson SG and my Strat. And I kind-of ended up going to the Gibson’s more. Alot of times I play a Les Paul issue gold-top which is kind-of my main guitar. I do tend to lean toward the Gibsons a little more; they have a little more oomph, for what I do. But you know I still do appreciate the Fender thing. But Gibson’s become sort-of my mainstay. The SG is kind-of a new one for me. I got that back in the Spring. And it’s a re-issue of a 60 SG. yeah I definitely am very into the Gibson sound. I have a San Juan F5 Mandolin and a Nugget F5 Mandolin, and those are my two mainstays.
If you go
What: Leftover Salmon’s Thanksgiving concerts; Bill Payne of Little Feat opens both shows
When: 9 p.m. today and Saturday
Where: Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder