LIVE: Leftover Salmon @ The Egg, 12/2/15
Review by Richard Brody
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
The Salmonheads were out in force and ready to make some noise. Leftover Salmon’s bluegrass opener “Breakdown in the Holler” – featuring rapid fire solos by Vince Herman on guitar, Drew Emmitt on mandolin, Andy Thorn on banjo and very special guest Alex Hargreaves on fiddle – had some people on their feet and the rest of us wishing we were in a dancehall. Any first-timers, like me, who were expecting the band to stay in the Appalachians for the evening had to rethink their expectations as the band swung into the Caribbean flavored “Lisa” with Vince’s sun-soaked vocals leading the way. What was evident very early in the set was how seamlessly the band could switch gears as they moved from one song to the next.
In concert at The Egg’s Swyer Theatre, Herman used the recent local headlines – “I hear you rid Albany of corruption in the last few days” – to introduce “Hey Woody Guthrie” with a chorus that brought cheers from the audience:
“Hey Woody Guthrie where are you
The big dogs are back at the door.”
In Guthrie-like fashion, life on the road was the theme in two of the evening’s best songs. “Two Highways” – “one goes on forever and the other takes me home” was led by Emmitt’s vocals and fiery bluegrass-style picking on electric guitar. Herman introduced “Just Keep Driving” with “This is the song that convinced my girlfriend to marry me. We’re getting married next week.” And they were off with Alwyn Robinson’s drum fills and Greg Garrison’s fluid bass propelling the song’s rhythmic foundation, while Herman’s lyrics let us know just how much he missed his wife-to-be and all the adventures they would have upon his return.
In addition to their own songs, the band paid homage to Bob Dylan with “A Simple Twist of Fate” that featured a fine mandolin solo by Emmitt with Hargreaves’ fiddle rendering different dimensions of fate and a heartfelt lyrical presentation by Herman. Their bluegrass version of “Nashville Skyline Rag,” introduced by Thorn’s unmistakable Earl Scruggs-style picking, led to solos by everyone in the band. They finished their set with Marc Bolan’s “Bang a Gong.” What might have seemed like a good idea turned out to be the low point of the evening. Fortunately the band came back for an encore and a shout out to Bernie Saunders with the bluegrass-flavored “The Gold Hill Line” that left their fans wanting more.
As good as all the band members were what Hargraves added to the mix was evident all evening long. On “Troubled Times,” you could feel the sorrow of the song’s lyrics in his fiddle playing, and during “Better Days,” Hargraves’ fiddle and Thorn’s banjo engaged in an instrumental conversation that pushed the band to a rousing finish, after which Thorn walked over to the mic and with a look of disbelief on his face told us, “This is the first time that we’ve played together.” I will certainly be back when Salmon returns to Greater Nippertown, but I will be hoping that Mr. Hargreaves will once again be playing with the band.
LEFTOVER SALMON SET LIST
Breakdown in the Holler
Hey Woody Guthrie
The Flight of the Durban
Get Up & Go
This Is the Time
Simple Twist of Fate
Nashville Skyline Rag
Get ‘er Rollin’
Bang a Gong
The Gold Hill Line