|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • Salmon spawns an evening of good-time vibes

  • Leftover Salmon is no stranger to keyboard wizardry (see: Pete Sears), but adding Bill Payne to the band changes things. The band's rootsy, good-timey vibe is still there, but it's off a little to the left of its traditionally bluegrassy side of the Americana turf.
    • email print
      Comment
  • Leftover Salmon is no stranger to keyboard wizardry (see: Pete Sears), but adding Bill Payne to the band changes things. The band's rootsy, good-timey vibe is still there, but it's off a little to the left of its traditionally bluegrassy side of the Americana turf.
    Since it formed in 1989 in Boulder, Colo., the band has called its jam-band blend of bluegrass, rock, country, and Cajun "Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass." Add Payne, a founding member of Little Feat, and you've added a classy dose of barrelhouse blues and funky swamp rock on keyboards and organ.
    Whatever you want to call it, the boys were on Friday night at Britt, serving up country-tinged R&B, blues-drenched boogie and psychedelic jams from the Tennessee hills of "Hollerwood" to the blistering jamgrass excursions of "The Aquatic Hitchhiker" from the recent album of that name, their first studio recording in years.
    It was hard to tell who was having the most fun, Payne, who kept smiling at the other guys over his keyboards, or the Salmonids themselves, with founder and acoustic guitarist Vince Herman flashing grins at Payne and breaking into little dance steps.
    It was that kind of night. Jeff Fretwell's band turned in an engaging set of soft country songs on the Table Rock Stage to open the evening.
    Eight Dollar Mountain, the Ashland-based neo-trad bluegrass outfit, opened things on the main stage with a short set in which all five members sang leads and harmonies, mixing that old, high, lonesome sound with strains of country blues and gospel with a beat.
    The group started four years ago when members met at a bluegrass jam near Ashland. Inspired by the songs of bluegrass founder Bill Monroe, the guys write songs that tell old-fashioned stories with a contemporary twist, such as "Big Time," a party song, and "the Hard Times Penitentiary Blues," a driving, minor-key dirge.
    The guys lack the fiddle of a traditional bluegrass outfit, substituting Mark Lackey's resonator guitar, and they're notable for their harmonies.
    San Francisco-based Poor Man's Whiskey brings an outlaw vibe and a tradition of high-energy shows fusing bluegrass and old-timey rock into extended jams. The band has a growing catalog of story-telling originals but has also been known to perform an entire set of Allman Brothers, a band they sound a bit like on some songs, particularly guitarist Sean Lehe.
    They ranged from acoustic stompers like "Humboldt Hoedown" to rockers like "Angeline," for which they switched to electric instruments for a stretchout number with a long, spacey jam.
    When they turned bluegrassy, as in "Let's Go Out Tonight," it was loud and rhythm-driven. They returned to fiery southern rock on "Willie," a song about a purple bus they take on tour.
    But it was Leftover Salmon that a partying crowd had come to party with.
    "Whoa, what a beautiful night," enthused Herman, a bear of a man with a face framed by white hair and beard and, along with mandolinist and guitarist Drew Emmitt, the only founding member still active in the band.
    The band opened with "Sing Up to the Moon," a newer rocker with some flashy keyboard work from Payne, then switched gears to "Hollerwood," which was driven by the banjo of Andy Thorn, the newest member of the band (not counting Payne, who's basically doing a guest shot). Thorn is credited by Herm and Emmitt with injecting new life into the band when he came about in 2010.
    The band had been an on-again off-again enterprise for several years, with members involved in side projects (Great American Taxi, Drew Emmitt Band, Emmitt-Nershi Bandand) and re-uniting from time to time for reunions and festivals.
    Add Payne and the rock-solid rhythm section of drummer Alwyn Robinson and bassist Greg Garrison and the band is again a roaring jam monster.
    Payne burned up the keyboards on "Oh Atlanta," which he'd played on the Britt stage a dozen or more years ago with Little Feat. Payne is simply one of the best piano rockers ever — which is why he's played with J. J. Cale, Pink Floyd, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Phil (Lesh) and Friends and many others.
    In addition to his incendiary piano, Payne added some gorgeous work on the Hammond B3 organ on Thorn's composition "High Country," which also saw a guest appearance by the Rogue Valley's Jeff Pevar on guitar, trading licks with Herman and Emmitt and holding his own quite nicely.
    By the time a reviewer's deadline was calling, the band had taken an ebullient audience on a tour of that vaguely defined genre called Americana that ranged from the Cajun voodoo of "Mama Boulet" to the rollicking syncopation of "Bluegrass Pine," a song Payne wrote with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.
    Getting out, you had to wend your way through people boogyieing merrily up and down the hillside, never a bad sign for a band.
    Bill Varble is a freelance writer living in Medford. Reach him at varble.bill@gmail.com.
Reader Reaction

      calendar