Just in time for summer, Leftover Salmon’s brisk, rollicking blend of bluegrass and jam music arrives, providing the feel-good soundtrack for dancing in the fields and backyards. Joined by guests Billy Strings, Oliver Wood, and Darol Anger, the band turns out propulsive versions of songs by Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, the Delmore Brothers, and David Bromberg that formed the roots of their jams over 30 years ago.
The electrifying “Riding on the L&N” skitters and careens down the newgrass track, propelled by Jay Starling’s scampering dobro licks, Andy Thorn’s dashing banjo picking, and Drew Emmitt’s darting mandolin runs. The group’s gospel-inflected call-and-response vocals on the chorus drive the song into high gear as it flies along at supercharged speed.
Billy Strings joins the band on guitar and vocals for a jaunty, walking blues take on the Delmore Brothers’ “Blue Railroad Train.” Oliver Wood joins them on slide guitar and vocals on the ethereal “Fire and Brimstone.” On this psychedelic rocker, Starling’s punchy Wurlitzer notes create an atmospheric resonance which he lays over Alwyn Robinson’s thrumming, marching drums, creating a Dr. John-like second line feel.
The band’s version of Dylan’s “Simple Twist of Fate” opens languidly but then charges off with a cascade of John Hartford-like banjo rolls weaving around Starling’s unfurling Dobro and Emmitt’s shining mandolin runs. The band turns in a vibrant take on Dallas Frazier’s “California Cottonfields,” fueled by Starling’s sterling Dobro and vocals; their jumping, high-octane bluegrass take on the Dead’s “Black Peter” would have made Jerry Garcia proud. Strings joins the band again on “Nashville Skyline Rag,” and everyone gets a chance to stretch on this high-octane instrumental jam.
Every song and tune on Grass Roots showcases Leftover Salmon’s nimble musical skills and their tight arrangements. Play this album loud, pull back the rug, and let the music carry you away far from the cares of everyday life.
Grass Roots is available HERE.