Leftover Salmon’s Drew Emmitt takes another Freedom Ride across Colorado

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:: Drew Emmitt Band :: Stage Stop Inn :: January 25 ::
:: 8150 :: January 26 ::

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By Lisa Oshlo

Long known around these parts as the lead vocalist and dynamic mandolin player for jamgrass mainstays Leftover Salmon, Drew Emmitt has forged his own path since the dissolution of that band in 2004. Now touring regularly with the Drew Emmitt Band, the master of all things strings, has proven he’s got the meddle to go at it on his own.

While Emmitt sticks predominantly with the mandolin and guitar, he is also a competent player of the banjo, fiddle, harmonica, and flute. The Marquee caught up with him high on a mountaintop in his hometown of Crested Butte, Colo., to talk about the mandolin and the music that is so much a part of him.

“I was playing bluegrass banjo and it wasn’t quite suiting me,” said Emmitt, “so I picked up the mandolin and it just clicked with me right away.” This should come as no surprise to his fans, as his contemporary-sounding, energy-driven mando licks seem very much unique unto him. While he cites influences such as New Grass Revival, Hot Rize, Little Feat, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, and Bill Monroe, it is primarily his own voice that dictates his music. “I think that everybody who’s an artist is just putting together their influences and making their own sound out of it,” he said.

Emmitt put together his first bluegrass outfit, the Left Hand String Band, in 1984. Six years later he joined forces with Vince Herman to create Leftover Salmon, a band that was unprecedented in its influence in putting Colorado on the acoustic music map.

Emmitt’s first solo release, 2002’s Freedom Ride, featured bluegrass luminaries Sam Bush, Peter Rowan, Ronnie McCoury, Vassar Clements, Stuart Duncan, Randy Scruggs, Vince Herman, Greg Garrison, and John Cowan. The album includes Leftover Salmon classics (“Lonesome Road,” “Bend in the River”), beautifully penned originals (“Paving Eisenhower”), and some choice covers (Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue,” Peter Rowan’s “Rainmaker,” J.J. Cale’s “If You’re Ever in Oklahoma,” and one of Bill Monroe’s favorite covers, Joel Price’s “Memories of Mother and Dad”).

A follow-up album, Across the Bridge, was released in 2005. In addition to Emmitt and his band, the album features Del and Ronnie McCoury, Jim Lauderdale (with whom Emmitt wrote a few songs), Stuart Duncan, Sam Bush, and John Cowan.

The Drew Emmitt Band currently consists of Emmitt on mandolin, guitar, and vocals, Greg Garrison on bass, Tyler Grant on guitar, and Steven Sandifer on drums. Jeff Sipe can occasionally be spotted on the drums as well, when he’s not on the road with former Phish frontman, Trey Anastasio.

Always advocating adventurousness in his music, Emmitt has recently added the electric guitar to his repertoire in a more prominent way than in years past. The merging of electric and acoustic instrumentation has encouraged the natural expansion of bluegrass music into the arenas of rock and jazz.

“We’re doing everything, both the bluegrass stuff and the more rockin’ stuff,” said Emmitt. “I just got to the place where, for the kind of venues we were (playing) especially, it made sense to bring out the electric guitars and amps and play a wider variety of music. We can still have our bluegrass roots, but when we’re in a crowded bar at midnight and people want to go nuts, we can do that, too.”

:: Drew Emmitt Band ::

:: Stage Stop Inn :: January 25 ::

:: 8150 :: January 26 ::

Spectate if you Gravitate:

• Leftover Salmon

• New Grass Revival

• Left Hand String Band

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