Leftover Salmon: Celebrating 20 Years Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of our Leftover Salmon: Celebrating 20 Years feature. JamBase has been working with the Salmon guys, as well as artists they've influenced and been influenced by, to bring fans this intimate look at one of the most important bands to grow out of the jam scene.

Part 1 of our story featured interviews with Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt and a bunch of contemporaries like Yonder Mountain String Band's Ben Kaufmann and Little Feat's Paul Barrere, as we broke it down, telling the Salmon tale from the very beginning. Part 1 also included the first set of songs from our free double album giveaway. You can read the full history of Leftover Salmon in Part 1 here, and you can download the first set of songs from the Leftover Salmon Celebrating 20 Years sampler here.

Part 2 of our feature revolved around interviews with John Bell, Jeff Austin, John Cowan and Pete Sears, and can be read in full here. Part 2 also came with the second batch of songs from the album giveaway, which you can download here, and if you go to the last page of the feature you will find complete track list info.

For Part 3 we're offering the next six songs from the double live album, which you can download here. We also caught up with Sam Bush, Cracker's David Lowery, and Ronnie McCoury to lend some more insight into what Salmon means to the scene.

Sam Bush

JamBase: On February 20, 2003 at The Fox in Boulder, you sat in with the band on "Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow." We are featuring this song in our live album giveaway and wondered if you have any memories of this night, perhaps even this song?

Drew Emmitt, Sam Bush, Vince Herman - Leftover Salmon
Sam Bush: I learned that tune originally from The Country Gentlemen when I was 16 years old, so I'd always played the mandolin on it. But I find, one, when you have such a great player as Drew Emmitt playing mandolin, why would I need to play the mandolin? And two, they don't have a fiddler in the band, so I would rather play fiddle with Salmon. I don't know how he does it, but Drew can play faster than maybe anyone I've ever played with. Me, with a fiddle bow, it's all I can seem to do to just hang on with the guys. That's one thing I love about Salmon: they bring the energy to the table that not many bands can, so basically, all I gotta do is hang on. They've already set the groove and it's my job just to keep up with 'em.

JamBase: There are a lot of instances when you've sat in with Salmon over the years. What else comes to mind?

Sam Bush: I can remember one great time, New Year's Eve 1999 going into Y2K. We were staying in downtown Denver, and back then, there was the Y2K scare of not knowing what was going to go wrong with the country, the electronic grids and what have you, and I remember many storefronts downtown having plywood over the windows! It was a little odd. So, we get to the Salmon gig and everything's back and fun again, and Salmon has a costume for everyone to wear, and I remember having a great time jamming with the guys that night; it was a truly wonderful experience. And we did sort of a musical parade through the audience, so to speak, in our costumes, and we were about two-thirds of the way through the audience and all of a sudden something smacked me in the forehead so hard that I actually saw colors, and it was a big ice cube that someone had thrown! It hit me right in the forehead, ended up making an egg on my head. And I thought, "Okay, I'm going to leave the audience procession to the young folks from now on."

I remember another time as well. We were all in Boulder to pay tribute to Mark Vann by getting to sit in with Salmon, and I had been to see Mark earlier in the hospital that day down in Denver. As a cancer survivor, I always want to try to see my brothers that are going through it. I really loved Mark a lot, and he obviously, of course, was a driving force in that band. Basically, I felt like Mark brought the work ethic to the band. He was a true professional.

JamBase: Thinking about Leftover Salmon's 20 year history, how do you feel they have most significantly influenced the music world?

Mark Vann - Leftover Salmon
Sam Bush: Well, you can look down a ladder of progression in music, and see where some bands may have influenced others. Coming from the band New Grass Revival for 18 years, I know the bands that we were influenced by, bands like The Osborne Brothers, Jim & Jesse, The Country Gentlemen and The Dillards, bands that had already strayed away from bluegrass. Even though I grew up loving The Stanley Brothers and Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs, we tended to be more influenced by the more progressive-style bluegrass bands. So there already was progressive bluegrass before we came along. And then bands like us, Breakfast Special from the Northeast, the New Deal String Band from North Carolina, we came along - we being NGR - and then as the years roll by, then we influenced bands like Leftover Salmon and others.

So, NGR is long broke up, Salmon is going strong, and I think you can see where they influenced a lot of people who wanted to play music, especially musicians interested in acoustic instruments. I would venture to say Salmon did a lot, maybe more than anyone else for a period of years, to influence young people; by young I mean kids in their teens, to want to play bluegrass-style instruments. So you can see a band like Salmon that can do reggae and rock & roll but also play the fast and furious jamgrass and newgrass, that they were very influential for a lot of young musicians that got interested in mandolins, banjos, and acoustic guitar from listening to Leftover Salmon. In that way I believe they were very influential for the furtherance of acoustic music and progressive-style bluegrass.

JamBase: Obviously, you and NGR were a huge influence on Salmon. In what ways have they influenced you or your music?

Sam Bush: I think they've influenced me in that just playing with them and feeling the energy, helps me remember that one of the things I love about music is the onstage energy and the communication with the audience. So, in that way, they've influenced me and encouraged me to keep playing and keep the energy cycle going and the circle of communication with the audience.

Sam Bush was interviewed by Cal Roach

Continue reading for interviews with David Lowery and Ronnie McCoury...


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