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...

Ronnie McCoury - Del McCoury Band & The Travelin' McCourys

JamBase: You've collaborated with Leftover Salmon many times over the years. Can you share some memories?

Ronnie McCoury & Drew Emmitt
Ronnie McCoury: It's funny, last night the Emmitt-Nershi Band came to Nashville and I played a gig and they came to the show and I jammed with Drew last night! We're just really good friends.

I don't know exactly the first time that I played [with them], probably some place like Telluride. But the first time we did a co-bill would've been at a place called The NorVa in Norfolk, Virginia. I'm really bad with the timeline here, but I'm thinking it was about 2001. We got up and played some stuff together, basically the two bands, my dad's [Del McCoury] band and their [Leftover Salmon] band. And from that, it led to booking a string of shows and doing a tour called "Under The Influence." Basically, it was kind of a play on "under the influence of my dad" a little bit. You know what I mean? And we went out for about a month, bouncing around the country together, and just had a great time.

And I'll tell you what, besides the collaborating and the singing and all that stuff, one thing that we got from that is that was the first time that we all really plugged in. It was kind of funny, "under the influence," it turned us into that, too. And my dad, too. I've been playing with dad since 1981, and that was the first time that I remembered him getting a guitar plugged in. There wasn't any kind of distortion, it was still acoustic, but still...Coming from our world, all acoustic, that was a big deal.

JamBase: Was that Salmon's idea, or just a spontaneous thing?

Ronnie McCoury: Well, they were playing all plugged in, and we were playing like we do normally with two or three mics. We play with microphones that pick up from all directions called omnidirectional, that's how we play, and it picks up from two or three feet. So, we were out with those guys and we couldn't get onstage and do the same thing. We actually tried to, the first night or two, playing around our mic, and you just can't compete. The crowd can't hear you; you can't hear yourself. So, one night, Vince just gave Dad a guitar and plugged it in. And I knew by that time, we figured we'd better try and get some pickups at least and see what we can do because I knew we were going to be doing stuff together in the show, not like just jumping up and playing at a festival or whatever. So we kinda had it arranged that we would do that, but I wasn't sure what my dad was going to do. Well, he took that guitar from Vince, strummed across it and heard that volume and it was good! And that really is the beginning of us doing that.

JamBase: Was it like Dylan at Newport? Was there any kind of resistance among the traditional bluegrass crowd, or was it a natural absorption into the modern idea?

Del McCoury Band by Dave Vann
Ronnie McCoury: Exactly what you said. I couldn't have put it any better. Sometimes you don't hear bad news or if somebody doesn't like it, but I never heard anything. My dad is someone who is very open-minded and goes with the flow, as opposed to a lot of guys who would never even do that. To me, that was a turning point for us in the band, knowing that we could do that if we needed to do it.

So, we had some really good times, and on some nights off we'd just go hang out and really bonded with all the guys [in Salmon]. I can't say enough about the friendship we have. And we did some recording, The Nashville Sessions [Hollywood Records, 1999], with them, and dad sang with Drew on a song called "Midnight Blues." A really good recording, I think, really a classic.

JamBase: Looking back on the past 20 years, what do you think that Salmon has brought to the music world in general?

Ronnie McCoury: There have been bands somewhat like that, say New Grass Revival, which is their roots. But what they did is they took it another step and really blended even more different music together. There was really nothing else like it, and there still isn't. I don't think there's any other band that puts that combination together quite like that. Really, with the keyboards and the different sounds with the bluegrass, the blending of the music, it's something that I hadn't heard before and haven't heard since.

Ronnie McCoury was interviewed by Cal Roach

Continue reading for the David Lowery interview...

David Lowery - Cracker

JamBase: Do you remember how you first came into contact with Leftover Salmon?

David Lowery
David Lowery: I can't remember what festival it was, but there were a couple festivals we played one summer where we kept running into them, and I just liked them. I just thought they played well, had good chemistry, there were just a lot of cool things about [their music]. And mainly Vince [Herman, Leftover Salmon], Johnny [Hickman, Cracker] and I just ended up palling around at these festivals. I don't remember exactly but somehow, we ended up onstage together and we played a couple Cracker songs, and it was a blast. And what it led to was that they were coming through town and I played with them again just as a guest musician, and they were going to be coming back through town about three weeks later, and I said, "Hey, why don't you guys just come into my studio when there's a couple days off in your schedule, and we'll just see what we can record?" So as it ended up, the simplest thing to do was for us to record essentially a lot of songs that me and Johnny Hickman had written.

JamBase: The O Cracker, Where Art Thou? album?

David Lowery: Yeah. So basically, over the course of a summer and then a year, we ended up hanging out together a lot and doing some jamming, but the real connection between the bands was when we made this record. And we didn't really have a plan or anything like that; that's why we just did a bunch of Cracker songs in a different vein with them. But the cool thing about it was the whole recording session, once the crew and my engineer at the studio got everything set up, it really just became more like a bacchanalian feast. It became more about drinking, smoking cigars, or whatever else. There was a pretty nice restaurant across the street from my studio that they completely fell in love with, and we were constantly just eating, drinking, smoking, and occasionally playing a song. And there was like 48 hours of this. And then right after the holidays we just kind of roughly mixed it, and that was the record. But it really was just like something you'd do in another country or something, like a two-and-a-half-day party that involved recording and playing music. Not in a bad way, it was like something that musicians have been doing for thousands of years.

JamBase: I think a lot of people sort of imagine that as the rock & roll fantasy lifestyle, like that's what musicians do for every album.

Billy Nershi & Vince Herman - Leftover Salmon
David Lowery: Mmm hmm, but they don't! But that's what those sessions were [like], and [the album] is just a great documentation of that, and I'm very happy with it. And that just sort of bonded the two bands together, and kind of introduced our audiences to each other. You know, they're kind of like "our guys." In some ways, they don't exactly fit. They're a little bit the odd man out in the jam world, because they lean a little more bluegrass, more traditional than most, and Cracker is sort of the odd man out in the alternative world because we do lean towards country and the more jammy stuff. And so we are sort of the odd man out in that world, and so there's a kindred spirit connection there.

JamBase: So, how would you say working with Leftover Salmon has influenced your music, or you personally?

David Lowery: Well, like I said, I never had really recorded a record quite in the way that we recorded that record that we did together. And since that time, it's not like I've ever done any Cracker records that way, but at our studio, with certain artists that I'm involved in recording or producing, I have adopted sort of a much more informal "let's eat, let's drink, let's do this, and we'll record and see what happens," approach on some projects that I have recorded there.

Also, Johnny and I are going to do something with this [Leftover Salmon] 20th anniversary party, too. We will be joining the Leftover Salmon guys on January 2 at the Ogden Theatre. We're playing New Year's Eve in Denver, so we're just going to stay and go to the party and play, which is going to be great. Basically, on their home turf, it'll be fantastic.

JamBase: What about Leftover Salmon's influence on the music world in general?

David Lowery: Well, I believe that they are the guys that brought bluegrass to the jam world, and you see a lot of that now. It's everywhere, and they brought that in; they made that part of it. Before, it was more jazz-based, and now it seems there's more roots-based stuff, and clearly, they were the first ones to really do that. And [they have] just good ensemble playing, with solos but rooted to a pretty traditional song structure. I think it was a really necessary thing to happen in the scene, and they did that well.

David Lowery was interviewed by Cal Roach

Continue reading to download Part 3 of our FREE Leftover Salmon live double album...

You can download Part 3 of the Leftover Salmon Celebrating 20 Years sampler HERE.

Just unzip the folder and play. If you drag in to iTunes, all show information, comments, and even album art will be imported and displayed. Download and add each part to your iTunes or burn to CDs as they become available to complete the double album set!

Track Listing for Part 3 of the Leftover Salmon Celebrating 20 Years sampler:

17. Austin Five (Mark Vann Original, Never Released) 5:53
03/26/2001 The Canopy - Urbana, IL
Band: Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt, Mark Vann, Bill McKay, Greg Garrison, Jose Martinez
Songwriter/Composer Credits: Mark Vann

18. Teen Angst (with David Lowery) 5:12
09/24 & 09/25/2002 David Lowery's Studio - Richmond, VA
Band: Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt, Noam Pikelny, Bill McKay, Greg Garrison, Jose Martinez
Songwriter/Composer Credits: David Faragher/David Lowery/John Hickman - Cracker

19. Dark Hollow (with Del McCoury) 4:09
11/09/2002 The NorVa - Norfolk, VA
Band: Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt, Noam Pikelny, Bill McKay, Greg Garrison, Jose Martinez
Songwriter/Composer Credits: Bill Browning

20. Rocky Road Blues (with Mike Gordon) 4:30
12/04/2002 Higher Ground - Winooski, VT
Band: Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt, Noam Pikelny, Bill McKay, Greg Garrison, Jose Martinez
Songwriter/Composer Credits: Bill Monroe

21. Ain't No Use (with David Grisman) 7:28
01/29/2003 McNear's Mystic Theatre - Petaluma, CA
Band: Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt, Noam Pikelny, Bill McKay, Greg Garrison, Jose Martinez
Songwriter/Composer Credits: Joseph Modeliste/Arthur L Neville/Leo Nocentelli/George Porter Jr.

22. Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow (with Sam Bush and Ross Martin) 6:47
02/20/2003 Fox Theater - Boulder, CO
Band: Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt, Noam Pikelny, Bill McKay, Greg Garrison, Jose Martinez
Songwriter/Composer Credits: Traditionally arranged by Leftover Salmon

Download Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Check out Part 4 of our Celebrating 20 Years feature here.

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