Leftover Salmon remembers Mark Vann with tribute CD 

Live blends bluegrass tunes

Who: Leftover Salmon

Where: Garfinkel’s

When: Aug. 20

To remember their former banjo player Mark Vann, who passed away this past year, Colorado’s Leftover Salmon titled their fifth, Live (pronounced as in "to live").

"We’re excited about the new album," says Vince Herman, on vocals, guitar and "gibberish" for the band.

Vann, a founding member of the group, died of cancer in March, 2002. He won the Telluride banjo contest – a renowned strings competition – twice. His role in the band has been filled by Matt Flinner.

The rest of the lineup is Drew Emmit on lead vocals, mandolin, and fiddle, Greg Garrison (from Chicago) is on bass, Jose Martinez on drums, and Bill McKay (who played with the Band du Jour for five years as well as with the Wiley Cotton Band) is on organ.

New songs from Live include Bill’s Boogie, Danger Man, Dark Green Thing, and Unplug That Telephone.

From his home in Boulder, Herman chatted about the evolving, 12-year-old band that has played with likes of Garaj Mahal and the bluesman of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

This fall, they are playing a concert with U.S. "godfather" of country music, Willie Nelson.

Their own "polyethnic cajun style music" was central to the singer’s life.

"It’s a great reward to get your friends out and get rowdy, with people interacting – it helps our culture," says Herman.

"There’s too much of this TV-watching indoors, and music is a good way to break those walls down."

It wasn’t until he turned 25, that Herman made a real go of it in the music world.

"I told myself what people told me for years: ‘don’t do it, you’ll never make any money at it’.

"But then I realized, why am I putting it off?" he adds.

Herman, who began with a sound based on a lot of guitar-picking, played some rock and roll, then added a drummer to his band to anchor the sound.

In the first few years of the band’s development, Leftover Salmon would play around 200 shows per year on tour.

Looking back on that time, Herman mentions the annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival as one regular highlight.

"It’s like Whistler, you’re not sure which way to look and turn to absorb the beauty all around you."

Herman says the calibre of talent, and number of musicians who gather for the festival, always make it memorable.

He grew up listening to a huge mix of ethnic music in Pittsburgh, including polka bands. He credits accordion player Ed Andrews as being his music mentor. It was Andrews who showed him how to play guitar in Grade 3.

The accordion isn’t usually part of the Leftover Salmon sound but the band keeps their shows creative. On their Web page, they list "costumes, parades, contests, and visual arts" as part of the Leftover Salmon experience. They dressed in medieval attire for their 1999 Planet Salmon Fest in Lyons, Colorado.

Herman is pleased with the band’s success, aside from the name.

"If we would have known we would have lasted this long, we would’ve though of a different name!" he laughs.

The name grew out of the 1989 merger of two bands, Herman’s Salmon Heads and Boulder’s Drew Emmit and the Left Hand String Band. Together – including Emmit who played with them for seven years – they became Leftover Salmon.

Leftover Salmon say they don’t centre tours around certain albums, but instead the recording of a CD "just happens occasionally."

Bridges to Bert was the band’s debut CD, followed by Ask the Fish in 1995.

Euphoria was then released on Hollywood Records in 1997, working up to 1999’s The Nashville Session , which included guest singers Waylon Jennings, Lucinda Williams, and Ronnie McCoury.

Playing with renowned musician Fareed Haque, who has appeared at the Boot several times this past year, was a memorable show.

Herman says of Haque: "He’s a nutcase. He’s just a funny guy."

An upcoming three-day festival in Oregon will see the band share a stage once more with Garaj Mahal, in addition to Vinyl band and Keller Williams.

Herman recounts an exciting show with musician Wavy Gravy (part of the ’50’s Beat movement), at the Fillmore in San Francisco.

"We all got down in this football-like stance and traded solos. You really had to be there."

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