Cajun slamgrass meets roots reggae |

Cajun slamgrass meets roots reggae

Wren Wertin
Special to the DailyLeftover Salmon's new album is a testament to places they've been, while they look forward to where they want to go.

For the uninitiated – few though they may be in the state of Colorado – Leftover Salmon blends bluegrass, Cajun, rock and country into their own polyethnic Cajun slamgrass. In other words, it’s happy music.

The group is riding the momentum of a new release, “Live,” named for the verb, not the adjective. Dedicated to former band mate and banjoist Mark Vann who died of cancer last year, the album was culled from several live performances. Most of the tracks were chosen as testaments to Vann’s finger-picking mastery and verve.

“In some ways it’s a good album, and in some ways it’s a bad one,” said bassist Greg Garrison. “It’s definitely a piece of our live show, but we did it pretty fast. I listen to it, and we’re different now. But we’ve had a lot of fans find us because of it. And a lot of the solos are Mark’s, and that was important to us.”

The difference in Leftover’s sound is due in part to the influence of their new banjo player, Noam Pickelny (fresh out of school), new keyboardist Bill McKay (formerly of the Derek Trucks Band), new drummer Jose Martinez and new bassist Garrison (formerly of the Motet and the Matt Flinner Quartet). They join band founders Vince Herman (vocals, guitar) and Drew Emmitt (mandolin, fiddle, vocals).

Herman calls the new group bigger, louder and faster.

“Well, Vince likes to say lots of things,” said Garrison, laughing. “I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily faster, but we are bigger. Our keyboardist is really interested in New Orleans music, so he’s brought a lot of that influence in. When you have a band as established as Leftover, when you add new players, it’s hard not to have some of their influences creep in.”

He doesn’t see the change as a bad thing, but as another step in the group’s melodic journey. That journey will continue to take them to some of the bigger festivals in both winter and summer. Leftover Salmon has always been a band best seen live.

The group goes back into the studio later this spring to create their first album with the new line-up. Garrison says they’re all looking forward to it.

Leftover Salmon is playing with The Wailers, Bob Marley’s band. Though they draw different crowds, Garrison feels the happy grooves of reggae will fit right in with their own toe-tapping, body-shimmying rock ‘n’ grass.

“I had always been a fan of Bob Marley,” said Garrison, “but I’d never seen the Wailers until we played a festival down in Florida. They were there, too. During their set it was raining and storming, but nobody seemed to mind. Everybody had big grins and was dancing. So yes, I’m looking forward to playing with them.”

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.

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