Margaret Hair: Emmitt’s got plenty of soul left | SteamboatToday.com

Margaret Hair: Emmitt’s got plenty of soul left

Margaret Hair

On Monday afternoon, mandolin player and Colorado music scene figurehead Drew Emmitt was attempting to navigate traffic, on his way out of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

“We are driving right through the center of Telluride right now. It’s a bit of a madhouse,” Emmitt said, recounting his reunion concert with Leftover Salmon and his shared sets with Del McCoury and Sam Bush.

Emmitt left the straightforward jam format of Leftover Salmon in 2004 – “straightforward,” in this context, meaning “amalgamation of several things.” He opted to put his playing chops to work on albums that are closer to the bluegrass that gave Salmon its edge, but are drum sets, upbeats, amps and miles away from being traditional.

“There’s a little bit of bluegrass on it, but there’s drums on the whole record, there’s definitely some rock ‘n’ roll and some new originals,” Emmitt said of “Long Road,” his latest release with the Drew Emmitt Band. The record hits stores July 15.

“Gold Hill Line” has the fiddle, walking bass and mandolin strumming of something closer to Sam Bush’s newgrass. But then, there are the songs that are made for dancing, the ones with the offbeats and the rolling guitar melodies.

And then there are the covers: the lounge jazz feel on Van Morrison’s “Gypsy In My Soul” and the chilled out ska beat on Supertramp’s “Take The Long Way Home.”

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“All the songs kind of pertain to being on the road, hence the title, ‘Long Road,'” Emmitt said. “And the Supertramp song just really talks about the two different worlds of being home and being on the road, and I’ve always kind of liked it.”

“Take The Long Way Home” also happens to be one of only a handful of Supertramp songs that is not better when it’s played on the wrong speed (one of the many things I have learned by listening to vinyl on a broken record player).

Emmitt has been touring relentlessly for more than two decades, so it makes sense that songs about the road hit home for him. When you never have the chance to stay in one place, something has to ground you. For Emmitt, that element has been music that feeds on Americana and all the things that go into it – those rambling, heartfelt songs that only someone constantly on the move can make or understand.

Because Emmitt is one of the better players in his game, he finds himself in good company more often than not. The guest roster for “Long Road” includes appearances from John Cowan, Jim Lauderdale, Bill Nershi, Stuart Duncan, Tim O’Brien and plenty others.

With that boost, Emmitt retains the pan-geographic field of influences that gave Leftover Salmon its longevity, stewing in Cajun soul on the original “I’m Alive,” a few tracks after dipping into Southern road rock for a cover of The Marshall Tucker Band’s “Take The Highway.”

“This solo band that I have is a little more focused on the original tunes,” Emmitt said. “It’s little less of a party band. Although we can still rock out for sure, it’s not quite as crazy.”

In the end, the road will wear you down. Luckily for Emmitt, it doesn’t always wear you out.

Key points

¤ Drew Emmitt Band, w/ The Devil Makes Three, Free Summer Concert Series

¤ Gates open at 5:30 p.m.; music starts at about 7 p.m.

¤ Base of Howelsen Hill

¤ Free

¤ 879-7179

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