The Nashville Sessions
Leftover Salmon is one of several of a new breed of bluegrass-oriented bands that are seeking to redefine what bluegrass can be. This new breed, anchored in the Rocky Mountains and the Telluride festivals (as opposed to the Appalachians and the Ralph Stanley/Bean Blossom/Merlefest Festivals) represent a fusion of styles that would not be accepted as real bluegrass by the traditionalists. These bands are not as rigid as the traditionalists, and they are more than willing to deconstruct the bluegrass foundation and rebuild it by adding non-traditional instruments and taking it off into new uncharted directions.
The influences and styles of some of these bands are generally pretty eclectic, and often incorporate jazz, rock, and even Afro-Caribbean influences in their rhythms, often resulting in a final product that might be more accurately described as a form of alt-country, or even sometimes delving into the World Music arena, with some of the bands becoming “jam bands,” due to their tendency to sometimes drift off into long, improvisational pieces.
The Nashville Sessions , which is by no means traditional bluegrass through-and-through, takes this band back a little closer to tradition. The excellent production by Randy Scruggs, and the guesting contributions by his father Earl Scruggs and some of Nashville’s finest session men, including Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Sally Van Meter, and John Cowan, along with the Salmon, provide the base for a solid piece of work that wanders in and out of several genres.
The great Del McCoury and son Ronnie provide excellent support in the lead-off tune, “Midnight Blues.” Taj Mahal and Sally Van Meter follow with a bluegrass-tinged re-working of Taj’s “Lovin in My Baby’s Eyes.” Bela Fleck adds his own unique style to a couple of cuts, and ol’ Waylon himself, accompanied by Randy Scruggs, Sally Van Meter and Sam Bush, breathes new life into his old standard “Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way.” Ex-Stevie Ray Vaughn keyboardist Reese Wynans and John Popper add a little more blues flavor with their contribution to “Another Way to Turn.” While this record is packed with some solid turns, my favorite has to be the Louisiana-flavored Lucinda Williams/Jo-El Sonnier rendering of “Lines Around Your Eyes.” All-in-all this is a mighty fine piece of work and it should win the Leftover Salmon some new converts. It might even make a Salmon-Head outta me.
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