The Nashville Sessions
First Appeared at The Music Box, December 1999, Volume 6, #12
Written by John Metzger
Since its debut, Leftover Salmon has dubbed its style of music "Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass." However, as time has passed, the band has turned more or less to a straightforward blend of country, bluegrass, and rock, which has culminated with its latest outing The Nashville Sessions. Make no mistake, there are still glimmers of the group's past goofiness on songs like Dance on Your Head and Up on the Hill Where We Do the Boogie. Despite this, Leftover Salmon does seem to be maturing, and its lyrics are beginning to carry more weight and meaning. That's certainly a good thing — these guys have far too much talent to waste on ridiculous stage antics that go absolutely nowhere and, worse, grow old quickly.
Yes — The Nashville Sessions is Leftover Salmon's crowning achievement to date, and for a disc so bloated with guest musicians, the group manages to turn the affair into a stunning and seamless masterpiece. What helps is that the band is more than gracious about sharing the spotlight with its friends, making this a phenomenally cohesive, collaborative effort. In other words, it gave up a little bit of the spotlight, but got back a lot more in return.
The Nashville Sessions begins as Del and Ronnie McCoury join Leftover Salmon for a romp through Midnight Blues, and it ends with Widespread Panic's John Bell adding his smoky vocals and slide guitar to the slow blues groove of Nobody's Fault But Mine. In between is everything that one could (and should) expect from a line-up that includes Lucinda Williams, Double Trouble keyboardist Reese Wynans, Taj Mahal, Béla Fleck, Earl and Randy Scruggs, dobro king Jerry Douglas, John Popper, and Sam Bush. Lovin' in My Baby's Eyes bounces with glee; Breakin' Through soars over its lyrics of optimism, hope, and survival; and Troubled Times fully explores its blues-based beat, allowing the ensemble, along with Bush and Douglas, to turn the song into an impassioned jam session.
Leftover Salmon has long been one of the premier jam bands touring the country, and its sterling musicianship has garnered the outfit rave reviews among fans of the genre. The Nashville Sessions gives the ensemble an opportunity to cross into a new market, and it has pulled it off with astounding precision. Where the group heads next is anyone's guess, but for now, it just doesn't get much better than this.
The Nashville Sessions is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1999 The Music Box